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Most people think of the resume as the document that will make or break your application, but a cover letter can have just as much influence. Employers from all fields value a strong communicator, and the cover letter is often their first glimpse of your writing skills. The way in which hiring professionals may judge your writing can be very subjective. We help identify best practices you can use to ensure an effective cover letter and maximize your chance of making a good impression.
Write a new cover letter for every application. Do not use a form letter. Each employer and position that you apply for is unique, and the letter’s content should specifically address the situation. It is much better to apply to a few employers with careful, well-crafted letters than several with a form letter.
Ensure that the cover letter is technically perfect. This means no errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Also, check the facts. For example, make sure the employer’s name and address is accurate and spelled correctly. Do not rely on your computer program’s spell-check option. Proofread your letter, and have others proofread it as well.
Make sure the tone is employer-focused, not applicant-focused. Many people make the cover letter about themselves as an applicant, and what they hope to get out the position. For example, “This position sounds like an exciting way for me to grow in the field,” is applicant-focused, it’s about your growth.The letter should be all about how you will contribute to the employer organization. For example, “My experience and creativity in 3D design will be an asset to the project team; my work has been featured in many showcases.” Talk about a specific skill you have. There is some leeway to discuss what you hope to get out of the experience in an internship cover letter; however, make sure it is balanced with ways you will contribute as well.
Limit the letter I. Many people start many sentences with “I” in a cover letter. This gives it an applicant-focused tone. As you proofread the letter, pay attention to the first word in each sentence. Try to limit the number of times “I” starts a sentence to 60 percent at the most, and no more than two times in a row.
Do not summarize your resume. Although you will need to give some background information that parallels your resume, do not make the entire cover letter a repeat of information that can be found there. Instead, try to focus on a few key points in the job description, and parallel those points with an anecdote about your qualifications. For example “The job description indicates that someone with leadership skills is desired; as captain of my college volleyball team, I led my teammates by motivating and educating them about the game and having strong character as a student-athlete.”