OK, so now you’ve been accepted to the school of your dreams and you have started taking classes. Time has literally flown by, and soon you will graduate. Then what? In my last post I discussed writing a good CV. Here’s what your university and professors won’t tell you about cover letters.
Why is writing a good cover letter important? Or, rather, exactly what is a “cover letter”?
First of all, the cover letter is your way of introducing yourself to a potential employer. If you were at a party, you wouldn’t just walk up to a random stranger and hand them your resume and ask them for a job, would you? Please say “no”, or we’ll have to have an entirely different conversation. Your cover letter is your way of saying to a (potentially helpful) stranger: “Hello, I’m so-and-so, and here’s why I’m interested in you.” A gentle introduction before you get to the heart of what you really want: them to take a chance and hire you, someone they have never seen before and don’t know.
OK, now that we are in the right head space, let’s talk about the elements of a cover letter. But before I do that let me not make assumptions. You do know how to write a standard business letter, no? I forget sometimes that this is the age of social media and texting, LOL. (By the way do not use shorthand texting language in any kind of professional context like I just did). For those of you whose eyes again made the trip to the back of your head when I said “business letter”, just use Microsoft Word, and tell it to use the business letter template (the exact name will vary depending on the version of Word that you are using). Or, if you’d like to see an example of a specific letter, take a look at this cover letter.
OK, so now we know the purpose and format. But…what to include? Here are some specific tips:
- Be specific. Just as you were for the objective on your CV, be specific in your cover letter. Do not create a generic cover letter to send to all employers. Tailor it specifically for the position you are applying for. For ideas on how to do this, check the example I provided above, or search the internet for examples of good cover letters.
- Use proper grammar and spelling. Again, just like your CV, don’t allow grammar and spelling mistakes to come between you and the job of your dreams.
- Formatting. Your cover letter should be easy to read, just like your CV. So, no teeny font or pink polka dotted paper. Or animal print. I don’t care how much you see it on the spring runways.
Lastly, contact your university career center. Chances are they offer cover letter review as part of their professional services. They can give your cover letter the once-over and help you fine tune it.
So…congratulations! At this point you are well on your way to securing an interview.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,