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.
By Erica Freeze
As the school year is coming to an end, it is important for college students to have updated résumés for future careers or internships. As a graduating senior, I constantly find myself updating and changing my résumé to best represent who I am. A résumé can include other elements besides words – different colors and fonts can all help to show who you are to a potential employer. Potential employers make snap judgments about who you are from a simple glance at your résumé. Because of this, it is important that your résumé makes a positive impression on readers. There are certain mistakes that people make time and time again on their résumés that will make an employer turn his or her nose up. Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them:
1. There is not enough white space.
You want your resume to appear clean and professional. Overcrowding the page with too much text will most likely overwhelm an employer and cause him or her to not want to read through the whole page. Being precise and to the point on résumés is the best way to go. When an employer receives your résumé, you want them to be able to glace at it and get a general idea of your experience. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to have a visually appealing layout with some color or a logo you have created to represent who you are. If you’re adept at graphic design, there are general résumé layouts in Microsoft Word and also simple design platforms online such as Canva which have premade templates.
2. You didn’t include results-oriented language.
As aspiring public relations professionals, we know that results are very important in understanding how to best target key publics. Employers want to see how you drove change at a previous job or internship. They want to know what you have to contribute to their company to drive change. Your résumé should be clear about results you’ve achieved. It can be as simple as “increased Facebook page views by 15%.” If offered an interview, you can elaborate on how you did so, but it is important that on paper you show them that you do include how you contributed to your past job or internship.
3. Your objective statement could use some work.
If you decide to include a statement at the top of your résumé, try to steer away from an objective statement. An example of an objective statement is, “Seeking a role as an account coordinator to advance my career in the public relations industry.” There are a few problems with this statement. It is very bland, and the focus is on what the candidate wants for herself, to advance her career, rather than providing information on how she can generate change for the potential employer. Instead of that, try using a statement that shows your value to a company. An example of this would be, “Transforming communication problems in the entertainment sector into intensive, results-backed solutions. Creating results through identifying stakeholders, building relationships and implementing change.”
4. You didn’t include skills.
You can list out your skills in a section or provide them interwoven throughout your résumé in your experiences. Employers need to see your skills and how you applied them in previous positions. These skills can help you stand out from other applicants. In a CareerBuilder survey, 35% of employers stated résumés that don’t include a list of skills is one of the most common résumé mistakes that may lead them to automatically dismiss a candidate. If you decide to weave your skills into your resume, start with the skill and then include how you generated positive results because of this skill.
5. You aren’t confident in your past work experiences.
As a student in the SOJC, I know that classmates can get competitive with each other, and sometimes it feels as though you may not have enough experience or involvement to stand out. Don’t give up, and don’t represent a lack of confidence on your résumé. If you have no PR experience, highlight the skills you acquired in another job and how they can relate to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are a server, you can say something along the lines of “accurately recorded orders and partnered with team members to ensure satisfaction for our customers.” This shows that you have experience working on a team which most likely helped you enhance you r communication skills. Additionally, if you have no work experience, highlighting certain classes on your résumé is okay to do as well – that’s how I got my first internship! Be confident in what you have to offer an employer, even if it isn’t a bunch of work experience in the field you hope to end up in.
The job hunt can be a tricky one, but be confident in what you have to offer employers with an awesome, updated résumé! This is a first impression of who you are and what you have to offer. Use these tips to help you stand out among competitors!
The secret to a standout resume is to measure your results, and you’ll need to plan ahead to do this. Here are the steps to follow:
1. Identify the ultimate goal of your efforts. Why are you about to engage in this public relations endeavor? What is the purpose?
2. Set objectives. Your objectives are how you measure whether you’ve achieved your goal, so each objective must be measurable. To set objectives, you’ll want to find out what your past performance was. You want to do better than last time, but you don’t want to set objectives that are tough to reach. Make sure to set your objectives with your manager.
Ideally, you’ll have access to the organization’s prior performance, so you can report the difference you have made (e.g., increased museum memberships by 5 percent).
If you cannot get information about the organization’s prior performance, you can at least report on your resume whether you met your objectives, and you can potentially report that you exceeded your objectives by a particular percentage (e.g., exceeded attendance objective by 20 percent).
If you will manage your organization’s social media, make sure to use tools to measure your organization’s performance before you take the helm. You can find these tools through an Internet search for “[name of tool] measurement.”
Some of my favorite measurement tools are Edelman’s TweetLevel and BlogLevel, Statigram, and PinPuff. There are plenty of other good tools, as well. Facebook has built-in metrics you can use through Facebook Insights, which you can access as soon as you’re an account administrator. Make sure to record the “before” scores, so you can measure the percentage of improvement at the end of your internship. You might also take some screenshots of the before and after measurements, which would be good visual illustrations for the professional portfolio you’ll prepare during J454.
Another important online tool is bitly, which you can use to measure the number of times people have clicked on a link you share.
3. Measure your results. To figure out the percentage change between your performance and the prior performance, follow this simple formula:
A. Subtraction: Your performance – prior performance = X
B. Division: X divided by the prior performance
Then move your decimal to the right by two numbers, and you have your percentage change.
Guest post by Professor Tiffany Gallicano, public relations faculty member for the UO School of Journalism and Communication. Visit her blog The PR Post.