Are you starting the search to find an internship? Or looking for a new position at a new company? A cover letter is one of the first things your future employer sees when ‘weeding’ through candidates. Some applications may not require a cover letter, however I personally believe you should always take the time to write one. It's a simple test to see who really wants the job and is willing to put in extra effort and who just found an opening and is applying. (I always thought, challenge accepted!) Our team compiled our personal tips to help you form that cover letter to get you “in” the door.
Pro tip: Does the position you're applying for not require a cover letter? Write one anyway! This is a great way to show your potential employer that you're willing to go above and beyond what is required.
(Hehe, I said do-do.) But seriously, do your research about the firm/company you are applying at and express what really has drawn you to them. Is it what you've heard from others? The types of projects they specialize in? The staff, culture, vision, etc.? There are a multitude of things to expand on with each company you are looking at and interested in, so do your research and find what those things are and tell them about why that resonates with you. Recognize that no company wants to feel like a ‘dime a dozen’ in the same way that you don’t.
Pick up the phone
Go back to the 2000's and make a quick call to the company that you're applying for. Ask who will be reviewing your application so you can properly address your cover letter. A quick call versus email in this situation will typically get you a lot further, a lot faster. (We have names too, and believe it or not, it is noticed when you take the time to find out ‘To whom it may concern’ is spelled ‘To Jane Doe’.)
First Date Jitters
Think of your cover letter as the initial meeting of a significant other or potential significant other. Make an impact on the person reading your cover letter. Talk about what you are good at (but not excessively), and how you can make a difference to the company you're applying for. A little flattery never hurts either . There's a fine line right? Take the time to talk about your accomplishments, passions, and drive in your cover letter and how those align with the company you're applying for. You want them to call you!
Think longer term when writing your cover letter. What I mean is that if there is a project you have worked on that you are proud of, speak to that in your cover letter. Tell them why and how you think it would relate with the firm you are applying for.
Pro Tip: If a project is mentioned in your cover letter, we will more than likely bring it up during your interview. So have it in your portfolio and be prepared to discuss the project!
LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE
Be confident enough to write as though you already have the interview set up “I am excited to talk to you about XYZ project, or your experiences with the Firm/Company over the last decade you have been there.” As you become more experienced in your career, you can also talk towards what you have to offer or ideas you have on how you would be an asset and a great fit to their team.
Too much is too much.
A cover letter should never be more than a page (including formatting). If it is more than one page, we're not reading the whole thing. Unless you wrote an extremely compelling novel that I cannot put down? Remember, we are not only reading your cover letter, resume and portfolio, but every other person's that applies for the position(s) too.
A helpful tool is the three paragraph rule:
- Paragraph 1 - Talk about THEM and why you want to work with them
- Paragraph 2 - Talks about YOURSELF (don't repeat your resume)
- Paragraph 3 - Add a CONCLUSION with specific and actionable follow up information
Keep it short, keep it sweet, keep it neat, and intriguing! Happy writing!
SPRINKLE IN SOME PERSONALITY
You're not writing a law book, don't be afraid to use a conversational tone and add a bit of personality. I'm not saying to fill your letter with knock-knock jokes, but you can add your own wit and still keep it on point with what the company is looking for and what you can deliver.
It's important to incorporate key phrases and words from the job description. Companies put a lot of time and effort to craft a great job description in hope to bring in the best candidates. If any of those bullets match your background and strengths, it's important to address them. Using keywords from the job description itself will also help a lot when it comes to submitting an application online. Sometimes a computer is going to be the first to filter, so the more keywords you have in your coverletter/resume, the more likely it will be to get through to a real human.
Lastly, but not least, proofread your work. Typos signal carelessness to us and can affect your first impression. We get it, not everyone is nicknamed "the grammar hammer", but it's important to review it with the best of your knowledge. It's also a great idea to have a friend or mentor look it over to have another set of eyes catch any errors and help you make sure you've hit all the right points.
A cover letter isn't the most fun thing to write, but it's an important tool to make that first impression to your next potential employer and the perfect opportunity to share your skills and interests that go beyond your resume. Follow our tips, and land the job you deserve!
Have you already nailed the interview? Check out our Interview Tips blog!