Before a week or so ago, I had no idea how to write a cover letter. I've applied to multiple jobs (and worked multiple jobs( in my lifetime, but I've never had one that I legitimately had to write a personalized cover letter selling myself to the employer in a way that was both professional and memorable.
However, last week I finally applied for my first job that required one. And I was terrified. I had no idea where to even begin, and I knew that it could potentially knock me out of the running if it was too boring and copied straight from a template. So I got some help from one amazing girl in Her Campus' Blogger Network, checked online for some tips, and then got my professor to read it over after all was said and done. And after all of that, I think I now have a pretty good understanding of how to make your cover letter stand out without being too over the top of wordy. Since you can definitely find templates on Google for a basic cover letter, here are my more specific tips to make your own cover letter shine. :)
// Do NOT say "Dear Sir or Madam"
One thing that everything I read (and everyone I talked to) agreed on was that this greeting is completely outdated. You actually should address it to a certain person, if possible. Many times, it won't say who to address the cover letter to, but do your research! You can look up who the hiring manager is or who is over the department you're applying to to figure it out. And if for some reason you can't find who to address it to, it's much better to start out with "Dear Hiring Manager:" than a variation of the Sir or Madam.
// Don't undersell yourself
Do not ever ever ever put yourself down or say any variation of "I know there are a lot of applicants applying" or the words "more qualified than I am" or anything really that could go with either of those. Your cover letter is supposed to show off your own skills and talk about how amazing you are and how you fit perfectly for the position being offered. If you're already doubting your own skills or chance to get the job, the employers are going to do the same and throw your application right out of the pile.
// Tell why you love the company/why you fit with it
Say you're applying to a magazine that you've loved for years. You could start the sentence with "I am particularly drawn to [company] because I've been an avid reader for years now. I always keep up with [column or article] and I think that [specific article] was fantastic for it's [advice, help, etc] in my own personal life." Employers want to know that you truly know about whatever their company is. Nobody wants to hire someone who knows nothing about them and can't even do a little research before applying. Plus, the more personal you are, the less likely your cover letter is going to sound basic and boring and copy-and-pasted from a website.
// Tell them why you'd be a perfect match for their company
Instead of mentioning how the job would help you (help you learn certain skills, bump your resume, etc - apparently a lot of people do it!), explain how you can help the company! This is the part of your cover letter that should brag on your skills. For example, a sentence from my own cover letter reads like "From creating ideas and managing posts, forms, and Mailchimp for my own blog for the past two years to managing the social media corner of [company], I’ve learned through experience the organization, multi-tasking, and self-motivation that I would need to be an asset to [company] in this position." I followed by explaining even more reasons I would be perfect for the job, and it's most definitely what they want to hear. They want to know how you would benefit them, not the other way around.
// End with a specific sentence
In the past week, all I've heard from everyone is to end my cover letter with "I am thrilled at the possibility of being involved with [company] in a larger way, and I would appreciate the opportunity to meet or talk with you at a later date. I’ll be sure to follow up in the coming week and have enclosed my resume with this letter." And then make sure that you actually follow up a week later! It'll keep you on the radar, whether they reply or not, and it shows that you're serious about the job.
So those are my five biggest tips! If you add these into whatever your cover letter already entails, I promise it'll make it at least 5x better! Also. I just applied for this job, so all well wishes and good energy sent my way would be super appreciated. :)
Do you have anything to add? Any other tips? I'd love to hear them in the comments!