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The Cover Letter Is Alive and Well. Here’s How To Write a Good One.
As hard as we wish, the reality is that the cover letter is not going away. Although the debate rages on about how many employers take the time to read them – the consensus among career experts is that you should always include one. The key is to keep your cover letter short and targeted to each employer.
In a recent talk on Facebook Live, Director of Career Education and Innovation Alyssa Hammond shared her top tips for taking the pain out of writing a cover letter.
- Remember: This is a Business Letter
Remember that a cover letter is not a personal letter. There are specific formatting guidelines for writing a cover letter. For example, the letter needs to include a date, your contact information, their contact information, etc. It needs to be set up properly. So the first thing you need to do is go to Google and type in, “What does a business letter look like?” Follow the set-up you find.
2. State Your Business (in the first paragraph)
The first paragraph of your letter might be all they read. It should have the most relevant info about why you are writing. It should include, who you are, what you want, and why. Here’s an example: “I’m a second-year student majoring in marketing at Bentley University and I’m writing to apply for a marketing analytics intern position for the summer.” Provide that clear information right away so they know what you’re applying for and why you’re the right candidate.
3. Grab Their Attention
Once you state your business, you need to grab their attention or else you lose them. The way to do this: show them what it is about this particular company and position that’s special to you. Answer the question: why do you want to work for them?
At Bentley, many students apply to the Big 4 accounting firms. Just saying you want to be at a Big 4 isn’t good enough. You need to be specific. For example, why do you want to be at Ernst & Young? Tell them what attracts you to the company. You’ll need to do some research that goes beyond looking at the home page of their company website. Do some digging, find out what other companies, consumers and even employees are saying about them. Find out what makes them interesting to you. Google “Ernst and Young press releases” to see what the organization is saying about itself.
You don’t need a lot -- just a couple of sentences letting them know you took the time to learn something about the company besides the very obvious stuff.
4. Draw the line.
So your first paragraph is done and now you’re ready to tackle the body of the letter. The approach to this is what I call “drawing a line.” Take your resume and take the job posting and -- either in your mind or on paper -- draw lines between what the job posting asks for and what on your resume applies to it. That’s what you talk about in the body of your letter.
So if the job posting reveals the company is looking for interpersonal skills, see where you showcase this on your resume. Use the actual words – “I have interpersonal skills built by this experience which makes me a good candidate for this position”.
Do this for the top three or four qualifications or skills they are looking for and turn it into digestible paragraphs.
5. End strong by being short and sweet.
At this point, they have your contact info and they know how to reach you because this information is on your resume. Don’t waste space, or their time, with information in the cover letter about where to call you. You should wrap up by thanking them for their time and letting them know you hope to hear from them soon. Don’t say “I expect to hear from you soon” or “I look forward to interviewing.” End things on a gracious note.
President Larson, along with guest experts, joined Bloomberg’s Carol Massar and Cory Johnson, to talk about how college and universities are preparing graduates to navigate diverse environments.