By Erica Freeze
As I am about to graduate from the University of Oregon, my job search is on full-throttle. Every time I see the words “please attach a cover letter,” I start to question the purpose of one. What is the point of a cover letter? It turns out that they actually have a purpose and when you utilize them to their full potential they can get you past the application process and into the interview process.
The purpose of a cover letter is to help you stand out past your resume. Cover letters are the outlet to introduce yourself and demonstrate your interest in a company. In these letters, you draw attention to your resume and motivate the reader to interview you. Often this letter and your resume are the first contact you have with a prospective employer, and if written correctly can have a large impact whether they ask you to interview.
After writing many cover letters for my job applications and conducting some research, I have learned a great formula on how to land an interview. So how do you write an interesting cover letter? Read on:
Headers can vary for every cover letter. Here is a pro tip: usually larger companies look for a header for your cover letter while smaller companies or startups usually don’t. If you are applying to a large in-house company or agency, then a header will most likely be preferred. If you apply to an agency with a few employees, then a header will most likely not be needed.
A header should normally consist of the date you’re writing the letter, your name, address, phone number and email address. Then, skip a line on the page and address your letter to the person who posted the job and their title at the company. For example, if Jane Smith, an HR representative for Edelman posted the job, then you would say, “Dear Jane Smith, HR representative.”
Sometimes you cannot always find the name of the person who posted the job. If you have no idea who this person is, or who makes selections for interviews, I simply put, “Dear Edelman.”
A successful introduction paragraph will include a brief introduction as to who you are and why you are interested, and qualified in the position. I normally start with my name and my education. Following this, I provide a brand statement. One great thing about the SOJC is that it encourages you to have a brand statement made before portfolio reviews. This is great to include in a cover letter because it provides a brief background as to what you are interested in. An example of a brand statement may be, (and this is the one I created for myself) “I am an aspiring public relations professional with a passion for writing, strategic communication and creative thinking.”
Following this, I like to explain why I am qualified for the position and what I can do for the company. It is important to make your reasons relate back to the job posting in some way. Think of it this way, if you can use the same cover letter and simply swap out the name of the company, you aren’t being specific enough.
Read over the job posting again, and the mission of the company as a whole. How can you help this company accomplish its goals? What experience do you have to succeed in the posted role? The next few paragraphs are for you to talk about your experiences that make you qualified. These can be internships, volunteer roles or even classwork if you do not have a lot of job experience.
I like to divide each paragraph up with the same structure. The first sentence or two should introduce your previous role and the skills you gained from the role. The following sentences should include scenarios where you utilized these skills, and how you best fulfilled the role. Lastly, provide results if you generated any. This is one of the most important things that companies look for. If you generate positive results, it proves that you worked hard in your role. An example of a result may be, “increased Facebook page likes by 50%.” It is as simple as that!
Your conclusion should be about one to two sentences, and reiterate the following:
Your enthusiasm about the role.
A “thank you” to the company for taking the time to read.
Where the company can contact you with any further questions.
A mention of relevant documents or links attached (resume, website, etc.)
With this formula, you can hopefully attract the attention of employers and show them your potential! Good luck with the job search.
Although writing a cover letter can often be frustrating, it is the first and most important thing a potential employer sees. The right cover letter can get you one step closer to an interview. Here are a few tips to make the writing process easier and your cover letters more successful:
Keep your cover letter well organized and easy to read. Use the first paragraph to explain why you are contacting the organization. Be sure to include any mutual acquaintances and mention your interest in the company or a specific position. In two to three concise body paragraphs, elaborate on your relevant skills, experience, knowledge and expertise. Conclude the cover letter by reiterating your interest in the company and mentioning a call to action, such as “I look forward to hearing from you.”
Tailor your descriptions of skills and experiences to fit the position. Use the job posting as a guide to identify two or three key skills that the employer is looking for. Then, brainstorm the ways in which your skills or experiences illustrate those reoccurring themes. By using key terms from the job posting, you can show that you not only understand what the job entails, but that you’re the right fit for the position.
Remember, they want to know what you can do for them. The more clearly you illustrate how you can benefit the organization, the more likely they call you for an interview. Consider concluding each of your body paragraphs with a sentence summarizing how the skill or experience you mention is relevant and how it will impact the employer.
For more advice on writing a standout cover letter, read this post on the seven-step resume makeover and this article on the mind trick that will help you write a more creative and passion-filled cover letter.
What has been your most successful trick to writing a unique cover letter? Let us know by leaving a comment.
Hannah Osborn, external relations committee member, is a junior pursuing a double major in public relations and magazine journalism. Follow her on Twitter at @hannahmarieoz.
A successful cover letter summarizes your relative experience and expresses your interest in a position. Your cover letter should leave the reader wanting to meet you for an interview. During the writing process, it’s important to use your unique voice, while also maintaining a professional and appropriate tone. Here are a few tips for making a great first impression with your cover letter:
Be personal. Whenever possible, address your letter to a specific person.
Do your research. Know what the position entails and learn as much as you can about the industry and organization you are applying for. Doing so allows you to focus on specific assets that match those of the position you’re applying for and tailor your cover letter to best suit the job.
Avoid using clichés. Employers sift through a number of cover letters with the same language. If you’re able to find unique ways to express your enthusiasm and interest for the position, you’re more likely to stand out.
Support your claims. Relate your strengths and experiences to the job description. This gives your letter substance. It also shows you are prepared for the position and prove your written communication skills.
Use active voice. It’s powerful. It shows your confidence. It keeps your ideas clear and easy to understand.
Proofread. Put your cover letter aside for a while, and then reread it. This is an old revision trick, but it works. You will likely discover grammatical errors and sentences that could be improved when you come back to it. Also, consider having a professor or advisor read over your letter – another set of eyes is very helpful when editing.
Don’t forget to format. Take time to make the letter clean and attractive. Keep the same font and header as your resume, but stick to traditional business letter formatting. Don’t forget to include a handwritten signature.
Your letter is the first impression a potential employer has of you as a professional. Remember, be yourself and let your strongest qualities stand out in your writing.
Post by Ruby Betten, PRSSA member for the 2012-2013 school year. You can contact Ruby through our blog editor at firstname.lastname@example.org