Every time I write a new cover letter, I find myself saying, “Damn, I wish I had known this before I sent my previous cover letter.” I hate saying that. Cover letters can be really tricky to write, especially if it’s your first time writing one, and I hate seeing other people make the same mistakes that I have made, which is why I decided to write this post (and basically start this blog). In my internship search experience (last year and this year), I have written three types of cover letters:
- One that got me an interview, and eventually, the position
- One that got me just an interview
- One that got me nothing
I am NOT a hiring team expert; I’m just a college kid like you looking for my bit of summer experience before I venture out into the real world. In other words, I, like you, still do not have the *perfect* cover letter writing formula that will get you an interview every time. But in the meantime, I do have some mistakes to share that I sure as hell will never make again—and mistakes that you’d want to hear about before it’s too late.
1. Don’t try to be overly funny
I know you have a wonderful personality full of sarcasm, puns, and a love for cat sweaters (aka all of my favorite things) but don’t try too hard to be funny. If you’re pursuing an internship at a fun, vibrant company, you’ll feel like you need to express a bit of your personality there. I get this struggle, but I personally feel like it’s much better (and safer) to convey your passion for the company and its mission than to convey how good (you think) you are at cracking jokes while sounding professional. Being funny works if your joke is actually funny. There are some things that sound way better when you say it rather than write it. Show off your personality some other way. Remember that a hiring team will spend about 30 seconds looking at your cover letter; you don’t want those 30 seconds to be spent trying to figure out your joke.
2. Don’t basically re-write your résumé
I was warned against this many times. If you’re going to restate everything in your résumé in your cover letter then what even is the point of a résumé? Your cover letter should hit on points that your résumé doesn’t. Are you currently undertaking a huge multimedia project as video production assistant for your school’s athletics department? Did you hit huge goals during your time as contributing editor for your school magazine? Good, say that. If you did something that relates perfectly to the job you’re applying to, use your cover letter to briefly talk about it. This brings me to my next point…
3. Don’t be vague—show, don’t tell
Don’t tell a hiring manager that you are good at time management. SHOW them. Were you able to balance seven classes, a part-time job, and your positions as student body president and writing center tutor? Awesome. These are details that show an employer that you’re an asset by providing specific examples. I didn’t back up lots of my claims in past cover letters, but I know to do that now thanks to advice from one of my professors.
Read the full post here.