Ahhhh, cover letters. Everyone thinks they know the magical “right way” of making a cover letter, but really? There is no RIGHT way. Sure, there are some tips and tricks that may help you more than others, but ultimately–it depends on the job you’re applying for. A cover letter for a teaching gig will NOT be the same as a cover letter for a consulting position. Following these few tips should help you come one step closer to landing your dream job.
One Job, One Cover Letter.
Each job you apply to will have different requirements. Even if you’re applying for the same TYPE of job (e.g. teaching), the nuances of each job will differ. When I was applying for publishing gigs, they may have been essentially the same job, but some would require Microsoft Excel experience, others would not, etc. As such, my cover letter would be tailored to those nuances. Each job should have its own cover letter, noting things particular to that position. Which brings me to my next point:
This is YOUR Cover Letter.
Meaning, don’t just copy-paste some cover letter form you found via google. This isn’t Mad Libs. If you want to do well and–I dunno–get a job, you need to put in some time and effort. No excuses. Your potential employer will inevitably get a “sense” if your cover letter is just some staple copy. How do I know? I’ve worked with students who needed help with cover letters, and I could tell. And if I can tell, other people can tell!
So how can you personalize your cover letter? Well first of all, make sure it’s tailored to your strengths. A lot of those form letters use vague terms–“organized,” “leader,” whatever. They don’t show the specifics of you. As such, write your own cover letter–with the One Job, One Letter rule–and make sure that you make it specifically attached to you. Vague terminology and fill in the blank responses won’t cut it.
Being a Good Fit
This is one section that people usually miss the mark on–at least slightly. Being a good fit for a company doesn’t just mean what you can bring to their table, but what THEY can bring to you as well. Think of it this way–if you’re a round peg, and they’re a round hole, well, that’s a good fit. But how do you think the company would feel if you spent your entire cover letter saying “I’m a good fit because I’m a round peg!” That kind of neglects their side of the fit. It’s a good fit because THEY’RE a round hole as well. So in your cover letter, dedicate a couple of sentences to how the company is good for you. For example, when I was applying for TOR publishing company, I mentioned my love of the fantasy genre, and how I would love working with the renowned fantasy authors that TOR has published. Why would a particular company or a particular school be good for you? This shows that you want a job with THEM and not just any joe schmoe who’s offering a job.
This is one of the most popular questions. Here’s my general guideline:
- 12 pt. Times New Roman Font
- Single spaced, with additional spacing between paragraphs
- Name, address, phone number, email–top center or top right
- Date–top left, below name and all that.
- No more than one page
- Typically 4 paragraphs (1st for introducing yourself and stating the position you’re applying for, 2nd for how you fit the company, 3rd for how they fit you, and 4th to thank them)
- Thank them for their time and consideration!
Again, cover letters do not have a standard format–we’re not talking about an MLA essay here. However, if you spend the time writing out essentially individual letters to each of your prospective employers, you will be in much better standing than those who only use cookie cutter letters. Again, if you have any individual questions, feel free to ask. Good luck!