You did it! You got accepted into college, picked a major, graduated (or are about to) and are now looking for some real-life experience.
Once you go out and enter the real world, you will soon realize that you are not the only person trying to achieve the same goal. Some jobs and internships receive hundreds of applicants and it’s very likely that some of them might have the same experience as you (sometimes even more).
This is probably very frustrating and you probably wished that there was a way to show companies what a fun, hip, caring and creative person you are. There’s actually a well-known way of doing that, it’s called a cover letter.
What’s a cover letter
A cover letter is a one-page window to your soul attached to your resume. It shows your potential employer who you are and what you can accomplish. A well-crafted cover letter goes over things found on your resume and expands on them.
We sometimes think that a resume attached to a nice friendly email will get us our dream job or internship, but everyone knows that those that stand out are the ones that go above and beyond. So why not be that someone and also attach a neat-looking, well-crafted, compelling cover letter?
In this guide, I will teach everything you need to know in order to write a compelling cover letter that will get you the position you want. I will go over what to include, how it should look and ways to make you stand out from other applicants.
What to include
Even though each cover letter is different, they all follow the same guidelines:
- A powerful introduction
- Specific examples of accomplishments and skills that are relevant to the position
- Strong conclusion with a call to action
Everything else is up to you. Keep in mind that while a well-written cover letter may increase your chances of getting an interview, the opposite is also true. A poorly written cover letter will likely cause an employer to reject your application.
To help you not fall into the latter, here are some of the things to keep in mind while creating your cover letter:
Address the hiring manager or the recruiter personally
You probably won’t be the first nor the last person to use “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom It May Concern” when addressing a recruiter. I did it once and still got the position. But if you really want to make a strong impression, then take the time to find out who you’re addressing.
You may have to make a few phone calls or try several searches before you find the right name, but, the harder they are to find, the less likely other applicants are to do it and the more impressed they will be with you.
Focus on your strengths
Remember, a cover letter should help recruiters know than you are the person for the job. Don’t just write fluff. Think of moments when you were able to make a positive change because of your knowledge and dedication. Don’t tell them you’re a problem solver show them that you are one!
Don’t say: I’m a creative problem solver and know that I would be a great asset for your company.
Say: I think that one of my greatest strengths is creative problem solving. I used this skill when trying to increase the number of signatures for X cause.
Always remember that honesty is the best policy. If you feel that you don’t have a lot of experience, don’t feel the urge to lie about it. Think of an instance in which your participation was key for the success of event, or a time where you helped a local charity.
Know what they are looking for
You might feel you have to pour everything you have ever accomplished into your cover letter, but you should focus on what the company or organization you’re applying to is looking for. If they’re looking for a marketing intern with experience in web management, don’t focus too much on how good you are at social media management. Tailor the experiences you want to share to the qualifications they are looking for.
Everybody says the same. “Dear Mr. Smith, I am a hard-working, determined communications graduate and I think I will be a perfect fit for your company”
Recruiters read dozens of cover letters every day. If you sound the same as everyone else, they might not read past the first couple of lines.
Adding some word variations can really make a difference. Words like “self-starter,” “detail-oriented,” and “forward-thinker” are everywhere. Say innovative, rather than problem-solver. You’re not a hard worker you are tenacious! Small changes like this can really help you stand out.
Always end with a call-to-action
End your letter with a reason for them to contact you. But don’t add remarks like, “I’ll call to schedule an interview.” This doesn’t make you a go-getter, it crosses a boundary and might really turn-off whomever you are addressing.
Instead, let the call to action be polite and open ended. Suggest that you are excited to offer more information and that you’re looking forward to talking with them.
Make it visually interesting
I can speak from experience when I say that a unique design can help you stand out from the crowd. Think outside of the box. Add some color, play with fonts, do something different! Recruiters will thank you from giving their eyes a rest by taking a closer look at what you have to say.
Only include relevant information
According to studies, recruiters only take a seven-second look at resumes and cover letters. That means that you have seven seconds to convince someone that you are the one. Don’t ramble! Irrelevant information will confuse your reader and make them miss important points.
Never in the history of ever should you submit a cover letter without checking for spelling or formatting errors. You should submit your best work. Also make sure that you follow the submission instructions laid out in the job description. Recruiters don’t like people that can’t follow instructions.
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