When I was a senior in college, talking to professionals about finding a job always made me mad and left me feeling discouraged. I felt their advice was too whimsical – there was nothing concrete to work with. There was too much “follow your heart” B.S. and not enough “Do step A and then step B” advice.
The most common job-hunting tactic to receive lackluster advice? Cover letters. Does anyone really know why cover letters exist? Do you, as a job applicant, understand the reasoning behind tailoring every cover letter to each prospective employer? I’ve found answers to these and other questions I had about cover letters in my recent journey as a job-hunting college grad. You can trust my advice – one of my cover letters landed me a job.
So, here it is…the best cover letter advice you’ll ever receive:
Tip #1: It’s important to understand what a cover letter is and the purpose it serves. This is your time to shine! A cover letter is meant to set you apart from everyone else that applied, but didn’t submit a cover letter. This is your once chance to be creative, captivating and show your prospective employers what lies beyond your resume. It also shows that you’re willing to put in the effort.
Tip #2: That being said, your resume is meant to list out your qualifications and experience – NOT your cover letter. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT list out the many things you are capable of (i.e., answering phones, social media, Microsoft Office, etc.) because everyone else can do the same things! Save that for your resume and use the cover letter to showcase something great about your personality or a talent you have. Most importantly: what do you bring to the table for this employer?
Tip #3: Use a proactive voice, not a passive one. For example, here are a few sentences to consider:
- I want to turn my passion into a career at Google. I want to turn my experience and love of social media into a primary job function in the Social Media Coordinator. I’d appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about this job position at Google.
- I plan to turn my passion for social media into a career at Google. My experience in online media and engagement will benefit my primary job functions as the Social Media Coordinator. In this role, I will bring my experience as a public relations specialist, writer and digital content specialist to exceed Google’s expectations for the Social Media Coordinator position. I look forward to speaking with you about my candidacy for the Social Media Coordinator position at Google.
The first set of sentences is hopeful and optimistic about getting an interview with Google. The latter? Getting an interview at this company isn’t an option – it’s a fact. Will bring, plan to and looking forward to are much more commanding terms than want to, hope to, and would appreciate the opportunity.
Tip #4: If you’re applying for a job that does any sort of writing, even a tiny bit….write in AP Style. If you don’t know what AP Style is, I suggest you start finding out because it’s quickly becoming the most prominent style of writing for companies that distribute any text to the public.
Tip #5: Proofread. For God’s sake, PROOFREAD. Trust me, a misplaced comma or letter can happen to anyone. Printing out your cover letter and combing through it with a highlighter is the best way to 1) catch errors and 2) possibly find sentences you can improve upon. This probably seems like common sense to you, but you’d be surprised at the number of professionals who skip this step out of stupidity or haste.
Tip #6: If you can address your cover letter to someone in particular, even better. Do some research, send a few emails and make a phone call. Do whatever you need to do to find out WHO is in charge of the position you are applying for or the person it reports to, and address your cover letter to them. This is personal, people!
There are plenty of other tips out there on cover letters, but these seem to be the most important – and the most overlooked. Take my advice during your job search: have a kick-ass resume, put effort into your cover letter, be confident in yourself and be persistent! If you do all of these things, you’ll have no problem getting a job….just don’t screw up the interview!
If you’d like more advice, feel free to ask questions below or leave a comment with your email. Hope these tips help!