Any recent college graduate knows that jobs (and even internships) are pretty tough to come by, especially in super competitive fields with few openings. Nowadays, you need a lot more than a good GPA and extracurricular activities to snag interviews (let alone the actual job) with the top companies and firms. But the first step to earning some face time with a recruiter or your future boss is writing a cover letter that will not only grab their attention but also let them know that you are qualified for the position.
So check out these useful tips and advice about how to write the perfect cover letter, some of which is common sense (ie. always proofread) and some of which comes from personal experience.
Don’t ever lead with “To Whom It May Concern:”
There’s nothing blander than reading a cover letter that opens with “To Whom It May Concern.” It’s not very personal and certainly not attention-grabbing. Try and figure out the name of the person that will be reading the cover letter so you can address it to them personally. When I don’t know who’ll be reading the letter, I sometimes address the letter to the “Editorial Team,” as there are times when more than one person will be reviewing what you send them anyways. Just whatever you do, please don’t lead with “To Whom It May Concern.”
Do some research on who will be reading your cover letter
This should be obvious, but do a little bit of digging on Linkedin or even social media to get a sense of who will be reading your letter. Maybe they’ve worked with someone that you’ve also worked with before—this has actually happened to me and it helped me land an internship. By putting in the effort to do a little bit of research, you are bound to pick up on at least one bit of useful information.
Try and include something creative in the opening line
Don’t be afraid to show off your personality. Open with something creative that shows you put more than five minutes of thought into what you’ve written. For jobs in media (magazines, websites, etc.), for example, the person who will be reading your letter has most likely written something that has been published online. Maybe the first line of your letter compliments a piece of their writing that you particularly enjoyed. Something creative, without being immature or (gasp!) offensive, is bound to grab their attention and make you stand out.
Read the job posting *very* carefully
Before you even begin writing the cover letter, read the job posting very carefully. Make sure that you not only have the proper qualifications and experience (it’s ok to slightly embellish here and there, but it’s definitely NOT acceptable to lie), but that the position is something you’re interested in. You don’t want to waste anybody’s time, including your own. It’s also critical to read the job posting to make sure that you don’t forget to include anything on your application. Some jobs require not just a resume and a cover letter, but writing samples or other examples of your previous work, as well.
Limit your cover letter to no more than one page
Recruiters and interviewers are more than likely going to be sifting through dozens (and in some cases, hundreds) of cover letters and resumes so they’re not going to want to read a novel. Make sure your cover letter is no longer than one page, and in reality, it should really be just longer than half of the page.
Make sure each paragraph has a clear and concise point
This goes back to the previous tip about limiting your cover letter to one page or less. Make sure each paragraph is clear, and concise, making sure to avoid rambling or including any unnecessary information. Try making your first paragraph the introduction, include your experience and a brief summary of your skills and the final paragraph a conclusion that thanks them for taking the time to review your application.
Always attach your resume if you’re sending an email
Many jobs that you’ll apply to will require that you send your cover letter in an email. If that’s the case, make sure you include your resume (many prefer PDF format as it’s easy to read and download) at the bottom of the email.
I’ll repeat: ALWAYS proofread. Enough said.