Cover letters are a way to expand on your skills that make you an excellent candidate for the position you are applying for. These are the less formal explanations or descriptions of who you are and what you can bring to the position. The resume is a formal “list” of experiences and transferrable skills, while the cover letter is a deeper look into motivation and/or details.
A cover letter should:
- Describe what position you are applying for. Tell the reader why they are getting this letter and resume.
- Describe how you heard about this opportunity. This helps the company learn what marketing initiatives are working. Is it the newspaper, Internet, a college career office, or a professor? If it is a person that told you about it, ask that person if it is ok to mention their name. If not, simply say “I’ve learned of this opportunity through speaking with various people that know of your company.” (or something to that effect)
- List specific experiences from your background and the skills that you have because of that experience. Describe how those skills relate to what you’re applying for. Don’t use the same experience for every letter you send – unless you’re applying for the exact same type of position each time.
- Be positive and confident. Instead of saying “I hope” or “I think”, say things like “I believe” and “I look forward to”.
A cover letter should not:
- Be more than one page in length.
- Talk about details and experiences that aren’t related to the company or position you’re applying for.
- Be negative in ANY way.
- Give the reader the impression that you’re going to “stalk them”. Don’t be so needy as to say something like, “I’ll be contacting you in two weeks to …….” Let them decide what the timeline will be. If you haven’t heard anything in a few weeks, a phone call to inquire about the search process is appropriate.
- Be mailed out without someone else looking at it for you. Often it is a small detail that will ruin the letter. For example – listing the wrong employer or position; typos, misspelling your own name; wrong dates; missing information; etc.