Your cover letter is the first thing a potential employer will see. Why waste a chance to connect and make a favorable impression on someone who could be your next boss?
This is your best opportunity to alert the employer that you are qualified for the job and are a great fit for the company culture. Indicate that you’ve read the job ad by using its exact terminology—including the position’s name—and highlight your specific skills that match the advertised requirements. If the ad asks for ArcGIS skills, your prowess at building maps with the software should be the first detail you mention. If the position calls for InDesign experience, write briefly about a project that let you wield multiple tools to great effect. Also check the list of desirable job candidate attributes. Weave yours into the letter by connecting them to language in the job ad. And always customize your materials to fit the ad. Remember that someone may never look at your résumé if the cover letter is unengaging, vague, rambling, or unrelated to the advertised position.
Think of the cover letter as a conversation with someone at a networking event: start off with what interests you about the job, mention what you love about the organization’s work, and point out how much you have in common. Next, go into specifics about how qualified you are for the position, and use examples from your courses, internships, and previous jobs. Make clear what you have to offer, and convey how enthusiastic you are about joining the group. Conclude by promising to follow up—and be sure to do so.
Top Five Cover Letter Tips
- Keep it short. Let your résumé—and your comments during an interview—fill in the details.
- Make it sound like you. Show your personality so that the recipient wants to know more about you.
- Use compelling language. Strong verbs, colorful adjectives, and clear descriptions will make your letter stand out.
- Do your homework. Research the organization and point to a specific element about it that intrigues you—an ad campaign, a blog post, a concert selection, its commitment to diversity—and show how your interests match the organization’s culture.
- Don’t make assumptions. Use the contact information provided when you address the letter. Don’t guess at appropriate titles or use an informal greeting.
Cold Cover Letters
Approximately 80 percent of positions are never advertised. You don’t have to wait for a job ad to apply to an organization. All you have to do is feel like you’re in sync with its goals and vision and then persuade someone you’re right. You’ll need to complete a significant amount of research to get the most impact—and you’re partway done by recognizing what organizations seem like ideal launching pads for your career.
Look through printed material, attend events—like performances, open houses, talks, and fairs—survey current or former employees you know or can meet, and check with faculty, staff, and alumni connections to learn more about the corporate culture. Review the website not just for mission statements and highlighted projects but also for the tone the organization takes. Does the group come across as traditional, funny, formal, progressive, whimsical, or hip? You’ll want to match that overall tone in your letter, and if you’re a designer you may want to change your résumé and portfolio samples so that they fit its aesthetic approach.
Instead of targeting your letter to a job ad, you’ll need to emphasize a particular project, piece of writing, or performance choice you admired. Explain how it connects to your goals and your vision for a successful career in your field. Relate your relevant work and course experience and underline how that will benefit the organization. Conclude by noting when you’ll be back in touch—and be sure you do so—and attach your résumé and carefully selected work samples.
You might find it useful to look over this sample cover letter replying to an ad or this cold cover letter.
If you’re looking for more guidance, set up an appointment with The Career Center to get personalized assistance and information on other campus resources. And don’t hesitate to contact FAA Career Services (email@example.com) with questions about your professional goals.