Though it may seem intimidating at first, a cover letter is your opportunity to sell yourself to a company and let them know why you should come in for an interview. So instead of fearing the cover letter, embrace it and check out these tips for writing your first one!
Your goal when writing a cover letter should be to explain why you are interested in a certain position at a company and articulate how your specific skills meet their qualifications for the position. It should be customized for each employer which means that the first step before you can even begin writing one is to carefully read the job description and do some research on the company’s website. Once this step is completed, you are ready to begin writing! Here is a breakdown of each section of a cover letter.
Think of your resume and cover letter as a set. This means that the heading on your cover letter should match (or at least complement) the heading on your resume. Include your name and contact information formatted just like it is on your resume. If you are writing your cover letter in the body of an email, you do not need a heading, but make sure to include your contact information below your name.
Date, Address, and Greeting
If you are sending your letter as an attachment/PDF make sure to include a date and the address of the employer and company you are addressing the letter to. When writing your greeting, take the time to look for the name of the person who will be reading your application. If you’ve taken the time to search and you still can’t find a name, address it to the “Internship Coordinator” or “Hiring Manager,” which is much more specific than “To Whom it May Concern.” If you do know the employer’s name, be formal when greeting them by writing, “Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name” followed by a colon.
Your first paragraph is an introduction and should explain to the employer why you are writing to them. Make it clear what position you are applying for and put it in italics so that is stands out. If someone referred you to the company, make sure to include that in this paragraph as well and provide a brief explanation as to why you are applying for the job.
Your middle paragraphs are where you can really sell yourself and explain what skills and abilities you bring to the table as a potential employee. Take a look at the job description and pick 2-3 qualifications they are looking for in an intern that you possess. Then, try to use a story to provide concrete examples of you showcasing these qualities or fulfilling these duties in your previous work experience. Remember this is your opportunity to connect the dots between you and the company, which is why it is important to do your research before writing it.
If you find that your middle paragraph exceeds seven sentences, make sure to break it up into two. Your second paragraph can be a continuation of the skills you have already highlighted in your first paragraph or an opportunity to share one more brief story or qualification. You may even want to elaborate on why you are applying to that company in particular.
Your final paragraph is your request for action. Let them know that you are available for an interview or are able to supply additional materials (references, a portfolio, etc.) upon request. Then, thank them for their time and consideration and let them know that you are looking forward to hearing from them soon. You can then sign off with a salutation and your first and last name.
For additional help with writing your first cover letter, call our office to set up an appointment with a Peer Career Advisor or check out our cover letter guide on CareerBuzz.