Updated: Jun 24
For many of us, now is the season of applying for summer internships or our first job after graduation. Applying for these positions can be stressful, especially if you have never applied for a professional internship before and don’t feel you have a lot to put on your resumé. On top of that, many jobs require you to submit a cover letter with the application. When I was first applying to internships my sophomore year, I had no idea how to even start writing a cover letter. Now I have written quite a few and I want to share with you all some tips on writing a really great, professional cover letter. I asked fellow UBWA junior, Lauren Zeck, to share some advice as well.I have compiled all of this into 5 tips for a great cover letter.
Tip #1: Start Strong
Lauren’s first word of advice is to “write a good hook that catches their attention and sets you apart from the beginning.” Recruiters have to read through an entire stack of cover letters, so having a first sentence that stands out will make them want to keep reading. Lauren also suggests that your “first sentence mentions how excited or interested you are in the position.” The company you apply to wants you to be excited about working for them. Don’t tell them that you are applying simply for the experience or because you think you have to have an internship. Even if you aren’t entirely convinced this job will be a good fit for you, find at least one reason you might like it. For example, you can talk about how you enjoy the company’s values or mission statement. Or if the position is somehow related to your hobbies, mention that. I am a film studies minor and have written a few cover letters for marketing jobs in the entertainment industry, so my first sentences usually tell the recruiters that I am extremely passionate about the industry and am excited to learn more about it.
Tip #2: Relate back to your experience
For the body of your cover letter, it is important that you show the recruiters why you would be a good choice. Lauren explains that you should “be specific about what past experiences you’ve had that you could apply to this specific role.” Let them know that you are capable and that you have some knowledge of the kind of work you will be doing. This is where you can cite some of your past jobs/internships if you have had any. If you haven’t, don’t worry. You can talk about student organizations you are involved with or community service opportunities you have had. Think of this as the evidence backing your claim in an essay.
Tip #3: Show your personality
Let’s be honest: Resumés are boring. They are a great, concise way to show all of your achievements, but they are just words thrown onto paper. Your successes and work experience are not the only things recruiters want to know about you. They care a lot about what your personality is like and how you view yourself. Therefore, as Lauren advises, “don’t focus too much on using professional ‘business-y’ language.” The cover letter should be a way to showcase how friendly and approachable you are. Definitely keep the cover letter serious and avoid using slang words, but don’t be afraid to add some personality to it.
Tip #4: Stray away from the Resumé
As we all know, a resumé should be one page of your most recent and impressive achievements. The recruiters have already read your resumé, so tell them some things they don’t know about you yet in your cover letter. You can go into detail about your favorite work experiences, talk about other opportunities that didn’t fit on the one-page resumé, or show how you translate your professional skills into other parts of life. Lauren also adds that “it is important to relate your experiences to the company.” It is helpful to look at things from the company’s point of view and consider what they will find most interesting about you that they don’t already know from your resumé.
Tip #5: Keep it simple
Recruiters don’t want to read a book about your life. You should highlight the most important things that you think they should know about you. Make sure to keep the whole letter one page or less. Lauren’s tip for ending the letter is to “thank the hiring manager for the opportunity to apply, and finish off with a final statement of why you would be a great addition to their company.” This is a great way to end your cover letter, as it shows both respect and gives them an incentive to hire you.
Hopefully, these 5 tips will help you feel more confident about your cover letters. If you have any questions about this topic or want to talk to me more about writing a cover letter, you can reach out to me at Litzler.email@example.com. Also, thank you to Lauren Zeck for sharing some great advice that helped me write this post.