The perfect cover letter is at your fingertips

It’s 2019 and time to work on my resolution to get a summer job. I may be rushing, but will I have time later?  Besides, I don’t want the good jobs to be taken. Plus, I can interview over midterm break.

As I searched the web for professional jobs, I discovered that, along with my carefully-planned resume, I need an epic cover letter. Cover letters are your way of introducing yourself to the company and explaining why they want you. Basically, it’s a pre-interview where you choose the questions. Through drafting my cover letter, (a process that involved many hours, Google, spell check and begging my older sister for advice) I came up with a few tips to cut down cover letter stress.

Are you trying to sound like a professional accountant, creative advertiser or someone who knows everything about theater? Look up some samples. Look at the format, the paragraph structure and borrow a phrase. But treat these examples like pirates treat the code—they’re more like guidelines than actual rules. Tailor your cover letter to your personality and specific job.

Look the company up on Facebook, re-read the job listing, Google the company and take notes on their mission statement, about us page and anything else. From that information, decide what they are looking for in an applicant. Don’t restrict yourself to the minimum requirements. Look for the traits the company values. Do they want someone who can collaborate with others, a strong leader or a strong conceptual-thinker? Boil down and define the attributes they want, then put on your thinking cap and get to work.

This is the hardest part: explain why they want you in a memorable way. Anybody can say they are a creative problem-solver, but you need to show an example. Work from the jobs on your resume and show you learned something. For example: as a summer counselor, on weeks when we were understaffed, I learned to collaborate with different people, filling in as photographer, janitorial staff and kitchen help, and ensuring the campers had a great week. It can take multiple drafts to get your cover letter perfect, so don’t try to get it in the first go.

Read your cover letter out loud a few times. Beware: spell check thinks to and too are both correct. They aren’t.

Take a draft or finished cover letter to career services in the library. They know all and have seen all types of cover letters. Go to the Learning Center (also in the library) and ask for another pair of eyes to look at your draft. Shoot an email to your academic adviser. They might have some tips for applying in your specific field.

Besides, don’t you want to show off your masterpiece?

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