5 Tips for an Effective Cover Letter

Oh, cover letters. They are the bane of all employment searchers (and equally as treacherous for the HR reps that have to read them). Recently, cover letters have been slowly pushed out from the job market; some companies’ HR reps have even been on record stating that cover letters are archaic and against the current job flow.

But, unfortunately, some of the most sought-after companies around the world still require cover letters.

It can definitely seem like a daunting task: you’ve already condensed your resume to one page, why do you need to write a letter that explains all the things your resume already does? Well, in my personal experience, a resume shows how you’ve worked over time. A cover letter is not only to show your writing skills, but also how you can market yourself to the specific position. You have to explain on paper how the things in your resume make you qualified for the position -- and the company (but also without reiterating everything that's on your resume).

Usually, cover letters are pretty dry. You start off addressing a specific member of the company (usually the hiring rep), explaining which position you’re applying for, why you think you’d be a good fit, and what you can bring to the company that other candidates can’t. However, as times have changed, so have cover letters. Companies want to see what diversity you can bring to the table, which is why these five tips are going to help you form the best cover letter your dream job’s ever seen.

(Note: Most of these are from the Muse, an online media brand that focuses on career advice; however, I have placed my own opinions of these suggestions in). 

1. Include a story

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Make sure the story’s relevant to your experience and the position, though! Include something about how the company shaped your days as a kid, or, if it’s a larger branch of an organization you were involved in in college/high school, discuss how the experience of being involved led you to want to work for the company on a larger scale. Try not to be overly emotional, but don’t sound like a robot, either!

2. Don’t be super formal

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No, seriously. In today’s day and age, more and more companies are straying from the uptight-ness of cover letters. Obviously, don’t go using text lingo in your cover letter, or addressing anyone as “homie” or anything. But you don’t have to say things like, “I would appreciate your time to discuss the position that was listed on the website for a political analyst, as I feel that I am the most qualified for it because…” blah, blah, blah. Like, that’s boring. If you don’t enjoy reading it yourself, then no one else will, either. Think about the position you’re applying for: if it’s something for Buzzfeed, you can probably be more relaxed than if you were applying for The New Yorker. You can use contractions, and play around with tone. 

3. Get someone else to read it

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This kind of goes off #2. If you’re unsure whether or not your cover letter is interesting/eye catching, then ask someone to read it! At CNU, you can visit the Center for Career Planning to have them look it over, but you can also ask a friend or even a professor. Even better, if you know someone who works for the company, you can ask them to read it, too. Each person can provide you with feedback as to the tone and interest level of your letter.

4. Include buzzwords for the position

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What I mean by this is that you should use the words and phrases listed as requirements for the position in your letter. HR reps often just scan for those specific words and phrases anyways, so if you find a way to incorporate most of them then your letter, application, and resume will make it to the next round. But, avoid phrases like “team player” or “people person”: those are boring and overused. Integrate the words and phrases the job ad has in a unique way.

5. Write in the style of the company

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This can be hard to do if you’ve never actually read any work from the company, but it can be easy to figure out. Is it a government, business, or something traditional where they usually wear suits every day? Then you’re going to want to avoid contractions and write in more formal statements. Is it a company that has a focus in creative design, has publications available, or employees have been interviewed by other magazines or featured on radio shows? Chances are you can study the words and phrases used and figure out the voice and style of the company. You’ll be a shoe-in for the position if you can write in the way that the company does. Use your cover letter to show that.

What are some tips that you have for writing a cover letter that aren’t on this list? Leave us a note in the comments!