Career Development: The Art of the Cover Letter
To Whom it May Concern….
You see the space for them on Indeed along with a tiny asterisk. Type something into this box before you try hitting that blue “apply” button. At times they feel useless. The temptation is to copy and paste the same humdrum version into each online application you send. However, if the job you’re seeking is demanding one, and you’re willing to take the time to fill out the application in full, a little extra time towards your cover letter can go a long way.
A cover letter is introducing yourself to a prospective company or employer. It should highlight your strengths and what you can bring to the table should they decide to bring you on board. It is helpful though to open with a brief introduction. Why are you writing this letter, who are you trying to reach out to with it, and how did you learn about the opportunity?
The next paragraphs are where things get interesting. Now you’re getting into the discussion of you, mentioning your background, your education, if you’re a recent grad or post-grad, and, this one is a biggie, your previous experience and work history.
If you’re minimal on actual paid work in a particular industry or field, think back on extracurricular activities, volunteer work, freelance or even coursework you’ve completed that can relate to the position. Don’t be afraid to describe yourself in glowing terms as well.
If you always show up to events early, using adjectives like reliable and punctual is a good way to catch an employer’s eye.
Also, read the job description! Borrow language and keywords that the company uses to describe the position and incorporate that language into your application and letter. Using terms they put into their website or job posting serves as proof that you A) read the posting and B) understand in no uncertain terms what the employer is looking for. It is an indicator that you pay attention and that you take your time, two valuable traits in a job hunter.
At the conclusion of the letter, remember that it is indeed a letter. Format and sign it as such. It is also helpful to include your contact information, the date you plan to follow up with the company and to close with a kind statement. Expressing your appreciation that they took the time to review what you wrote is a good way to wrap things up.
Filling out those text boxes can be a bit of a drag, but having a go-to letter that you can tweak and edit as needed is nothing but valuable to have stashed at the ready for when an opportunity presents itself.