Cover letters can be tricky and time-consuming. Writing a new cover letter to match each job application can be very annoying, but it doesn’t have to be. All cover letters will answer the same basic questions: who are you, what have you done, and where are you trying to go. Here is how you can step up your cover letter game to land that awesome job.
First, make sure that your cover letter and resume have matching headings. Not only does this show a sense of organization, but it also ensures that those reviewing your documents can easily match them. The easiest way to do this is to create a heading containing your name, centered and in larger font size (size 14-18), a breaking line, and your contact information. If your home address is in a different state than your school address, be sure to mention that in the letter so that employers know whether you are in the area in which you are applying. This is also important if you will be relocating for the job or internship.
The formatting of the letter should list the person to whom you are writing, their position, and their address. While some job listings may list who will be reviewing your documents, other jobs may require some digging. The harder that information is to find, the more impressed the employer will be when you are able to address your letter and other documents directly to them. Proper formatting also dictates that you should put a colon following your greeting, rather than a comma, which is a common mistake. These small features will help set you apart from others and showcase an attention to detail from the get-go.
Cover letters have a few more difficult details: the content. How much personal detail do you give them? What do you leave out? The first paragraph of your cover letter should include any connections you have to the company. Have you interned with them before? Did your parent's friend tell you about the open position? Then you can go into why you are interested in the position. How can working in that position help you, and how can you help that company? This is the paragraph that must be altered with each application. It must be customized even if it is only changing the names of the person and/or the company.
The second paragraph is where you get to promote yourself. Any training or experience you have that could make you the best candidate for the position should be listed here. If you have had anything published, if you have been trained on the newest financial software, or if you have worked on projects at another job in the field, be sure to talk about it. This is the paragraph that interviewers will likely reference later to obtain further details. This is also the paragraph in which you may explain any issues visible on your resume. If your GPA is lower than that which is required for the position due to family issues or health issues, this is your chance to explain. While you do not need to give full details, this is your chance to acknowledge the circumstances you have overcome while pursuing your goals.
The third paragraph should reference your resume. If you haven’t referenced your projects before, this is where you can do so. The final paragraph should include your phone number as well as a request for a meeting. A simple “I would enjoy a chance to meet with you in person to discuss this opportunity further" would suffice. This is also where you can include the URL to your LinkedIn page and say your final thank you before closing your letter and signing it.
Cover letters can be hard, but they don't need to be. By following this formula you will have a great cover letter that will impress any hiring agent. By ensuring that your cover letter looks clean and professional, you ensure a great first impression that can open the door for a second. Always be sure to talk yourself up and present yourself in the best light possible. And of course, always chase your dreams!