Now that the school year is officially winding down, it’s time to start focusing on how you're going to spend your summer. Applying for an internship at your dream company? After you put together a decent resume (tip: ask an older pal or sibling if they have something you can work from), your battle is only half over. Now it’s time to craft a cover letter that will stand out from the rest. Here are some tips that we think are invaluable (hey, that’s not a bad word to stick somewhere in your cover letter).
Introduce yourself. In the first paragraph, set yourself up. Drop in your name, how you heard about the position, and little factoids about yourself that your employer should know upfront, like your school, career aspirations, and interests. If you're applying to a company like SparkLife, for example, make sure to mention that your passions include reading, writing, and making lame jokes. Employers love this stuff because it reminds them of the beginning of their careers when they actually had hunger and ambition.
Focus on specific experience. After you complete the difficult task of introducing yourself in a concise paragraph, talk about a past experience. As tempting as it is, do not simply summarize your resume and list off job after job, or school activity after school activity. Instead, speak to a specific experience that you can go into detail about. If the school newspaper has been your creative outlet for the past two years, focus on that in your cover letter, describing times you’ve shined. As an editor, maybe you wrote a scathing opinion piece that the entire school was talking about. Maybe you were proud of the way you managed your staff. Pick your “highlight,” focus in, and don’t be scared to brag. If you won an award, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t mention it. These guys want to hear why you’re awesome, and as long as you can pull that off without sounding too cocky, you’re golden.
Stand out. When you're writing a cover letter, you might feel that everything you’ve done is fairly commonplace. Tons of kids are the editors-in-chief of their school newspapers, or presidents of their class. Still, try to figure out what makes you, well, you. Don’t be afraid to get a bit creative and try something out of the ordinary. Writing your entire cover letter as if it's a top news story seems kind of like a wacky idea, but it just might work. (This happens to be the way I got admitted to the journalism school before many of my peers did.) Think about the job you are applying for. If it’s unique, they are probably looking for someone unique. If you don’t want to get too creative with your cover letter, just make sure you choose words you actually use, and that really speak to who you are. Don’t describe yourself as “hardworking” or “detail-oriented” just because someone told you to. Paint an accurate portrait of yourself.
Close out strong. The end of your cover letter is an opportunity for you to shine one last time, so use it to hammer home your point. Reiterate why you want this job and why you are perfect for it. Don’t beat around the bush—be direct and get to your point. This paragraph should be short, sweet, and succinct.
Personalize: If you can find the name of the specific HR contact who will be reading your cover letter, address it to him using his full name. If you can’t find out that info on the internet, give the company a quick call and see if you can find out the name. That kind of investigative stalking work proves you will go the extra mile to do things right.
Have you ever written a cover letter? Did it take you a long time, or did you breeze right through it? Help your fellow Sparklers out and share your tips in the comments.
Related post: How to Professionalize Your Cover Letter