Internship and job search season is upon us (or at least quickly approaching) and for those in the process, it can be overwhelming to say the least. As I search for a summer internship, one of the biggest stressors is writing a unique cover letter for each application. Not only is it a time-consuming task, but it is also something that I feel like I was never taught. However, I’ve written quite a few cover letters in the past couple of weeks with the help of some tips I’ve compiled from the internet. And although I’m no expert, I think these pieces of advice could help you write a killer cover letter and secure that position you’re applying for.
For starters, the main purpose of a cover letter is to summarize your previous experience and demonstrate that you understand the job and are well-suited for it. It should complement your resume – while your resume gives a general overview of experience and skills, a cover letter gives specifics. Most importantly, you should include a description of your most recent past experience. Now, for college students this past experience may be sparse, but my strategy for this is to talk about whichever internship, job or leadership experience best fits the position I’m applying for.
Cover letters serve as an employer’s first impression of you, so they should hype up your past experiences, skills and accomplishments. Additionally, they should show just how interested and adamant you are about being hired. Many resources online emphasize that they should be short – a page or less. And more specifically, they should follow a general format: a first paragraph about past experience that is relevant, a second paragraph about accomplishments and skills that make you a good fit and a third paragraph summary to really sell yourself and thank them for considering you.
Another tip I found online was to read the position description carefully. I’ve found it helpful to take note of the keywords that a company includes in the job listing and in their mission statement. If they use phrases like “communication skills,” “go-getter” or “dedicated,” for example, I would find ways to tie those exact phrases into my application. There’s a good chance your cover letter will be skimmed, so by using key phrases that the company uses themselves, you already seem like a good fit right off the bat. (Side note: make sure to use the keyword hack subtly – they should actually apply to you and your experience!)
With these guidelines and tips, you can master the basics of cover letter writing, rather than dreading the process (I’ve been there). As tedious as it can be, they are arguably the most important piece of any job application, so put your best into them!