The most important thing a good cover letter will do is to show an employer that you will be a perfect fit for their position. What most job applicants don’t realize is that an employer is not only wondering if you are qualified for the job, they are also concerned that you might not really want the job and won’t put your all into it.
The best thing you can do to show an employer your enthusiasm about their organization, and the job, is to tell them. I don’t mean that you should write, “I am enthusiastic about this opportunity.” Explain in your cover letter why you are interested in that particular position at their particular organization.
Right near the beginning of your cover letter it should be clear to the employer that you have done some research on their organization and that you truly want to work for them. It is important that you use your cover letter to convince your future employer that you are enthusiastic about the job and that you will become a committed and hard-working addition to their team.
But, I don’t know if I really want the job
Right about now you may be thinking that there are some internships or jobs that you have applied for that you were not that excited about — the job market is not the best and you just want a job. Sometimes you may feel that just about any job will do, for now. (see Claudine’s post)
Unfortunately, if this is the case, the employer will more than likely figure that out. Your task is to find the most interesting parts of this potential job and build up your curiosity and enthusiasm for the position before you write your cover letter. If you cannot muster any excitement about a job for its potential or any other reason, than you may want to seriously consider not applying. Don’t waste your time and the employer’s time applying to something that you will not be interested in.
I really want the job
If you want the job, then tell them clearly and concisely why, in one or two sentences. Do your research to find out about the company, industry trends and the position. This may seem tedious or a waste of time, but it could mean the difference between getting an interview or not.
- Looking at the organization’s goals, the departmental goals and recent press releases
- Reading recent news articles on the company
- Finding out about current trends and/or the general culture in the industry to which you are applying
- Thoroughly reading the job description
- Doing some research through your contacts or the internet to see if you can find out more about the position
Compare the job to your goals
In addition to gathering this information, you should also spend some time thinking about your career goals and how the job might fit in. Sometimes the job is obviously a great fit for your plans but that is not always the case. Think about the ways that this job would build on your current skills and experience. Combine your interests with the employer’s interests (i.e., what they are currently working on or what they are proud of) and begin writing.
Bringing it together
Once you have done your research and have decided how this position fits in with your goals, you can begin to draft your cover letter. Utilize specific references to the materials you researched to write your 1-2 sentences about why you want to work there. Is the company dedicated to philanthropy? Is this a newly-created position with flexibility for you to help define the job? Is the organization restructuring how they spend their advertising dollars? These are some examples of ways you can address why you are interested in the position.
Once you have written that portion of the letter, polish up the rest of your cover letter with wonderful tips from Kelly Cuene. Don’t forget to have a career professional or other trusted person review your draft. When writing customized cover letters, practice makes perfect.
Lori Bielek is the Marketing and Technology Coordinator at University of Delaware’s (UD) Career Services Center where she advises students in the arts and sciences through all steps of their career development. You can connect with Lori through LinkedIn or her UD Career Services Twitter account (@UDcareers).