If you graduated this past December or are planning to receive your diploma in the spring, then right now you may be embarking on a season of "firsts." During the months ahead, you'll probably be responsible for paying your rent for the first time, filling out your first graduate school applications, traveling overseas for the first time, or stepping into your first serious, full-time professional job. Which means your first professional job search…which means your first professional cover letter.
This chapter of your working life will come with plenty of mistakes and lessons learned, but if you have an opportunity to learn some of these lessons while sidestepping the mistakes, it's a good idea to take those opportunities. In that spirit, here are a few cover letter guidelines that can help job-search beginners find their footing.
1. Keep your letter short. One page should be more than enough to get your message across. If you doubt you can fit your entire statement into a few paragraphs, think about your main points for a while before you write a single word. Try to summarize your message into a short, simple, hard-hitting answer to this question: why should you be hired for this job instead of the next person in line?
2. Keep your letter straightforward. Don't use double meanings, irony, jokes, or obvious exaggerations. Your personality will probably shine through without these embellishments, and since you have limited room to make your case, and these managers don't know you yet, stick to the simple facts.
3. Keep every sentence meaningful. Your statements should be concrete, not abstract. Think of it this way—who would you rather be:
- The hard-working go- getter with a taste for success.
- Or the person who last year contacted a local marketing company and requested an "internship" position that you created on your own. The person who—in three months—created a stock room out of an old closet, organized a company softball team, and assisted on two proposals.
4. Keep your letter respectful. There's no need to apologize for requesting a job; remember that these employers need you as much as you need them. But at the same time, a little respect goes a long way. Keep your tone positive, upbeat, and friendly. If you have anything negative to say—about the company or about yourself—save it for the interview. And even then, address the subject only if you're asked.
5. Use jargon and keywords carefully. Your application may be one of dozens, and during the first glance, managers will probably skim rather than read deeply. Your application may also be dropped directly into a large database, which will later be searched using keywords relevant to the position. Comb the job post carefully for words and terms that seem important to these managers. And keep your use of jargon and industry terms focused and relevant—skip the empty buzzwords.
Great Cover Letters Stand Out, Even in a Huge Crowd
No matter how many applicants are chasing your targeted position, you have something unique to offer. So be confident, and give yourself every possible advantage. Visit MyPerfectResume for tools and cover letter formatting resources that can help you leave your competition behind.