By: Carolyn Couch
If you inwardly groan at the thought of writing a cover letter, University Career Services has your back. Our website will guide you in creating a good one, and once it’s finished writing future letters will be a snap.
Yes, you must tailor a letter to each job for which you apply. Using a one-size-fits-all cover letter is just not an effective sales tool. But using the standard template you design for yourself and substituting appropriate information for each role makes the task a lot easier and quicker.
Read on for some tips help your letters stand out.
- Read the job description carefully, noting the job tasks as well as the skills, traits, and experience the employer is seeking. Consider what you have in your background that matches up and make those connections in your letter. Use brief examples to prove that you have those qualities.
- Gather intelligence about the organization online, at information meetings, and through alumni or LinkedIn connections. Relating the company’s latest initiatives or news to your interest in them can be a favorable way to begin your letter. Likewise, mentioning recruiters and alumni who are now employees will demonstrate that you have done your homework.
- Make the salutation count. Where possible, address the letter to a specific person, even if you have to dig for the information on a website or by calling the company. If you just can’t locate it, use the generic “Dear Hiring Manager:” The impersonal “To Whom it May Concern: “ is never a good idea.
- Proofread over and over. and ask others to as well. Employers are looking for ways to whittle down the number of viable interview candidates. Typos and grammatical errors convey that you don’t pay attention to detail when it’s time to put your best foot forward. So, too, does forgetting to change out the company name, contact name and address from a previous letter. Yikes!
- Be too casual. If your contact’s name is Jane Doe, address her with “Dear Ms. Doe” instead of “Dear Jane”. Recruiters want evidence that you know how to communicate professionally with clients and executives, so show your business writing acumen. Likewise, lapsing into text speak (yes, that has really happened) can be a turnoff.
- Go on too long. Keep your letter to one page, always. Yes, employers want to see how well you write, but they also want proof that you can deliver the message succinctly.
- Make reference to what you don’t have. “Even though I don’t have the ______ you mention in the job description” is NOT the best way to sell yourself into the role you want. Focus on how your qualifications will add value to the organization and forget about what you don’t have.
- Don’t begin every sentence with the word “I”. Mix up your sentence structure so that the letter is interesting to read.
For a personalized cover letter consultation, stop by the University Career Services office any weekday between 1:00 and 4:00 PM.