For college students attempting to score a great internship, or for recent grads trying to land their first job out of school, there's a lot of mixed advice on the cover letter. While experts disagree whether or not cover letters are worth the time, should you choose to write one, it can be a potentially powerful component of your application when executed correctly. Here are a few key do's and don'ts when writing your cover letter.
Always write a unique cover letter for each posting.
Employers will be able to tell if you're using a canned cover letter with one paragraph changed out. Instead of shooting yourself in the foot before you've even started, take a few minutes to write a thoughtful 200-word cover letter that conveys exactly why you're perfect.
Keep it short, succinct, and straightforward.
Hiring managers and recruiters are busy individuals, and you have about 30 seconds to impress someone. Keep your cover letter succinct-- don't embark on any meandering narratives about your past or passions. Stylistically, this means not writing sentences with an excess of clauses. Keep things short, sweet, and quick to read. Additionally, instead of telling why your life story means that you're probably a good match, make a great impression straight off the bat by composing a short, compelling opening paragraph about why you're interested in the position, and why the company should be interested in you. Which means...
Be your own advocate.
Never, ever lead with something self-deprecating, like saying there are other candidates who are more qualified. Whether or not it's true, there has to be a reason why you think you'd be a good fit for the job. This is especially well-illustrated by relevant experience, not relevant coursework. If you have a great twitter account, a blog you keep on the subject, or something else real-world and tangible that you can show a hiring manager (your thesis doesn't count as something real-world and tangible), this is a big boon. Furthermore, you may want to work at your dream job, but should your dream job want you? Detail exactly why you're a great fit for the company-- not why the company is a great fit for you.
Walk the talk
If there are directions with the cover letter-- for example, send two samples-- follow them to a T. Though going above and beyond can help you in some cases, you want to show you're a good listener and capable of following directions from the start. Additionally, show that you've researched the company by speaking intelligently about the business and the industry in your cover letter. If they have a blog, prove you've read it by mentioning a post (or argument put forward in the blog) that you liked, as well as any thoughts you can add to the post in terms of commentary.
As you put together your cover letter, remember to be confident but humble, and to show your enthusiasm for the position and the company as professionally as possible. Good luck with your application! If all goes well, make sure you're prepared to knock it out of the park with great digital job interview tips.