It’s that time of year again: cover letter time. Whether you’re applying for an internship or a job out there in the real world, a solid cover letter could get your foot in the door of a potential employer. Without a doubt, the key to snagging an interview is making a good first impression. And that first impression is your cover letter. To ensure that yours is as effective as possible, heed the following:
1. Show your interest. Because you’re likely applying to a number of jobs or internships, it might be tempting to send the same letter to each one. While it’s okay to have your cover letter imply the same goals, it should be specific, and should show why each specific job you’re applying to is interesting to you, and also a good fit. You can do this by researching your potential employer’s website, and by finding out what’s important to them.
2. Show off, but not too much. There’s a fine line between boasting and selling yourself short, neither of which are good things. In your cover letter, you have to be able to show you have the skills for the prospective job. To do so, choose one or two strong examples from your previous experience and demonstrate how you did that job well. Then, talk about how you’ll use those skills to do the job you’re applying for even better. In other words, you want your potential employer to know that they can trust you to excel without coming across as a braggart.
3. Explain. If there’s a blemish or weak spot on your resume (for example, if there are gaps in your employment history), explain your case. You don’t want your potential employer to assume the worst-case scenario.
4. A cover letter is never optional. Sometimes job and internship listings say that a cover letter is optional and that only a resume is required. Here’s a rule of thumb: set yourself apart from the rest by not only submitting a cover letter, but a stellar one.
5. Proofread. Draft your cover letter, and then draft and draft again. Something as simple as a grammatical mistake could mean the difference between getting an interview and not getting anything at all. Sounds over dramatic, but it’s true: don’t sabotage yourself by making a simple mistake.