A well-written cover letter can make a significant difference in successfully arranging meetings with potential employers. Most job hunters spend little time on the cover letter; your presentation, therefore, will stand out because it will look and read much better. No form letters, please.
Be baffled no more! Learn the art of writing a cover letter using the following sample.
There is a certain knack to writing a good cover letter. You can develop that knack with a little practice. The key here is to approach the letter as though you were reading it as an employer. Try reading it out loud.
Be sure the letter is direct. Get right to the point. You want the reader to stop and think, “Gee – here’s someone who’s a notch or two above the rest. Might make sense to get together.”
The letter is where you pick items from your resume that match the employer’s interests or the job and tell the complete story behind each item. Read this sample letter before you start, but here are some additional tips to go along with it:
- Standard business format is best for a cover letter, though the purpose of a cover letter may vary—you may be responding to a job listing, it may be to indicate your interest in scheduling an interview on campus, someone may have suggested you write, you may have picked a number of companies in an industry group, it may be the result of a conversation at the career seminar, or for a number of other reasons. In any case, it’s best to use the standard form.
- Try hard to find a specific name to whom to address your letter. “To Whom it may Concern,” “Dear Internship Coordinator,” “Dear Human Resources” just don’t get the same kind of response as a personally addressed letter. You will always find a name for on-campus recruiting employers from the Career Center. For other employers, use your network to find the name of the person who manages the group you have targeted. The contact may not be in the same area but will have access to the internal telephone book and can look for the best person. Annual reports and mastheads on publications can be helpful. You can always try calling the organization’s main telephone number and asking for information; or, check their website.
- If you are having trouble and the letter sounds stuffy when you read it, the following phrases may help. Use your own words! Imagine the reaction if an employer got 35 identical letters from 35 Williams students. None of you would stand out, and the employer wouldn’t be able to find anyone to invite for an interview!
- Note below the use of the word “because.” Give reasons when indicating why that employer is a possible match. In the paragraph 2, “because” leads to the proof of why you can do something or the story behind a statement.
- Be sure to proofread the final copy and get a friend to help you. Spellcheck is great, but “must” and “lust” are both words as are “use” and “sue.” A typo or two may suggest to the reader that you are careless in everything you do.
In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, I learned that ABC is expanding/initiating/developing (fill in the blank). I was very impressed with what John Doe told me at the Williams career panel about the (blank) at ABC because (blank). The description on your website of ABC's (blank) was perfect for my career interests because . . .. Professor Whomever [or any network contact] suggested I write to you when we were discussing my career interests because . . . .
I have selected a combination of courses where I can apply my (blank) skills. I chose a history major because (state your interests) and elected courses which focus on (blank). Last Fall I decided to test my interest in environmental issues, and designed a special internship in Williamstown (describe how you did it and give details about what it was). My work with the (name of the group) has been especially rewarding/challenging because (say what it allowed you to do). I believe my resume shows a high-energy level/ability to prioritize academics, activities, and work/experience at juggling responsibilities/ability to meet deadlines/etc. by effective time management.
I will be home for Winter Break and will call you next week to arrange a convenient time in early January when we can meet to talk about summer opportunities for me at ABCD.
Still not sure?
Career Counselors are available every day by appointment or from 1 to 4 to take a look at resumes and cover letters.