Cover Letter 101: Tips for Writing Cover Letters

Internship application season is in full force, and I’m in the process of submitting my resumes and cover letters for positions in the spring. After the success of my first blog post about internships, I thought I would launch an internship application series, where I’ll be discussing the three major elements of the process: the resume, the cover letter, and the interview. To read my post about resumes, click here!

tips for writing cover letters

Are you ready for the second installment of my internship application series? I am so excited to talk to you all today about my tips for writing cover letters. Cover letters are a simple but crucial part of the job application process, and their importance cannot be overstated. I used to be awful at writing them. For real. You would think that because I am a writer, I wouldn’t have an issue with them. WRONG. For some reason, writing about my skills seemed forced, awkward, and incredibly arrogant.

As a result of these feelings, my cover letters were generic and uninteresting. I honestly believe that my terrible cover letters were the reason why I did not get a lot of interviews during my first year of applications. Luckily, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months studying the art of the cover letter. I finally feel like I have a handle on it, so I’m happy to be sharing my tips for writing cover letters with you today.

Write a different cover letter for each job position.

I know this sounds daunting. It kind of sucks, actually. Applying for jobs is already stressful and time-consuming enough, so to add on an extra step for each application seems like a lot. However, it is so important to do. Hiring managers can easily tell when your cover letter is generic, and it’s a big reason why they throw away applications. You should tailor each letter to the specific responsibilities and tasks associated with the job. Luckily, if you are applying for several internships in the same field, you can use a lot of the same information, since many of the tasks between jobs are the same. But make sure to differentiate between each one by adding unique experiences and skills.

Don’t start the letter with “I am writing to express my interest…”

This is probably the most boring and common way to start a cover letter. Obviously, they know that you are writing to express your interest in the job if you are applying for it. Odds are that the hiring manager is already tired of reading letter after letter that begins with, “I am writing to express my interest in [company name]’s internship position for Spring 2019,” so you have to stand out and catch his or her attention. Instead, start with a quick story that demonstrates your passion, interest, or ability toward the position.

Quality over quantity!

Cover letters can easily turn into a laundry list of random skills and experiences. Employers would rather hear about two or three awesome examples than a list of 15 different skills. Make sure that you aren’t just repeating the same information that you have on your resume. Your cover letter is your time to shine and talk about your abilities in detail. Glassdoor suggests using specific numbers and evidence when discussing your skills. For example, instead of saying that you worked as a sales representative, you can say that you increased sales at XYZ company by XYZ amount/percent.

Send your cover letter as a PDF.

According to Forbes, not all office computers can open .docx or .pages files. Many employers prefer to keep application materials on file as PDFs. A PDF file will also ensure that your letter’s formatting looks the same, regardless of the computer or operating system. Click here to learn how to save a Word document as a PDF!

Design your letter to match your resume and add a header.

A great way to showcase your preparedness is to use similar designs and formatting for your resume and cover letter. In fact, many of the resume templates on Canva come with an accompanying cover letter template. Use the same fonts, sizes, and general layouts to convey consistency. For example, my resume and cover letter use the same fonts and header. This will also make your application more memorable! Additionally, make sure that your cover letter has a header of some sort that includes your name, phone number, and email address.

Show that you’ve done your research.

Companies love to know that you’ve done your research and are passionate about their mission and values, according to Nerdwallet. Try to integrate some of these things into your cover letter. For example, relate your skills and abilities to the company’s vision statement or value proposition. These things can easily be found on the company’s website. If it’s not on the home page menu, you might have to scroll to the footer and click on “About Us.”

Don’t be afraid to show your personality!

Don’t get too caught up in making your cover letter overly stuffy. It should be professional, but don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. In fact, I’ve found that my cover letters than contain personal stories and information tend to get me more interviews than those that don’t. (Of course, this isn’t a scientific study – just my general findings!) You can throw in some humor – with caution. Remember that hiring managers are people, too, and most are eager to get a closer look at you as a person through your application materials.

tips for writing cover letters

I hope that you found my tips for writing cover letters helpful! The process might seem daunting, but I promise that it’s not as difficult as it seems. I feel like I have come a long way with my cover letter skills in the past year, and I strongly believe that it’s the reason why I’ve had more success with my job applications. I’d be happy to read over your cover letter and give you feedback! If you are applying for an internship and would like me to review your materials, send me an email at mostlymillennialblog@gmail.com.

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mostly millennial tips for writing cover letters

 

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