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Cover Letters

How to Write a Cover Letter

A cover letter is your opportunity to directly communicate to a potential employer and explain how your background (education, accomplishments, skill set) makes you the ideal candidate for their job posting. The cover letter is your moment to tell your unique story, why you're the best fit for the job, and how you can contribute to their company. This is your opportunity to sell yourself.

The Fundamentals

While the content of a cover letter will vary vastly from person to person, there are some basics which all cover letters should have.

Every cover letter should be:

  • Written professionally. This is not a letter written to a friend, so make sure to use the formality appropriate to the occasion when applying for a job.
  • Unique to the job. Cover letters are not a one-size fits all document. Customize each cover letter for the position you are applying for.
  • Written using the same font, format, and style as your resume. See them as a collective unit; your cover letter introduces you and your resume.
  • Free of errors! Check, check, and recheck your document; errors in spelling or grammar could cost you the job.
  • A maximum of 1 page in length (this could vary depending on the field you are applying for)

Common Mistakes

Things that you should avoid when you are composing your cover letter include:

  • Rephrasing or summarizing what your resume already says. This isn't your resume in essay form; this is an introduction to who you are and why you belong in this job!
  • Writing completely irrelevant or overly personal information about yourself. Keep it tailored to the position you're applying for.
  • Summarizing the company's mission/mantra without applying it to you in any way.
  • Giving way too much detail to the content that you include in your cover letter that doesn't add anything to the impact of your statements.
  • Being too casual; remember, this is a professional interaction, write a professional letter!

Keeping your Cover Letter on Target

When writing your cover letter, try to compose 2-3 body paragraphs which give specific examples about how your past experience and qualities align with the company's values and specific job posting's requirements.

  • In each of the 2-3 body paragraphs, identify one job requirement that is listed by the company and then use specific examples from your past academic or work experience to show how you exemplify these skills or qualities. Make sure to give enough detail that the employer gets an idea of what you have to offer their company.
    • "I have strong organizational abilities" vs. "During my time spent serving at Burman University as the Student Body President I developed superior organizational abilities. Due to the numerous campus events, activities, and responsibilities that I was in charge of, I was required to use succinct and effective organization and action to ensure the successful implementation of numerous campus responsibilities across a number of platforms.
  • Quantify your experience
    • e.g. The number of team members you worked with, what percentage sales increased, how many people you supervised, etc...
  • Use the company's own words. When writing the cover letter, use the words and phrases that the company used in their job posting.
  • Do your research! Research the history, mission statement, and motto of the company and show how you have a respect for what that company's story is, and how you fit into that narrative.
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