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How-to: Write a cover letter

How-to

How-to: Write a cover letter

The best tips for setting your application apart from the crowd

As classes finish up, you may find yourself scrambling to find a suitable summer job that pays well, gives you plenty of time off for music festivals, and is hopefully at least mildly interesting. Applying for jobs can be a tricky process, and it’s made worse when you’re required to write a cover letter to accompany your resume. Follow these tips to make sure your letter actually gets read.

Don’t just rewrite your resume

You may be tempted to regurgitate in paragraph form what you’ve listed on your resume, but employers can already see the list of places you’ve worked and what each position entailed. Instead, use your cover letter to showcase the achievements you made during your time working at those places. For example, working as a cashier at a retail store may not seem overly exciting, but maybe you were the most efficient cashier on your team. That is the kind of thing you should point out to a future boss.

Watch the length

You might have written the most engaging cover letter that has ever been written, but if it’s over a page long it’s not going to help you much. Keep in mind that employers have to sift through dozens (or even hundreds) of applications, so they can’t spend a lot of time on any one candidate. Make sure your letter is as concise as possible and focuses on the most important things.

There’s no need to be so formal

Just because you want to put your best foot forward doesn’t mean you need to come across as traditional. And you don’t want employers to think you copied a template, either. Adding in some of your personality will not only make reading your cover letter enjoyable, it will help you stand out in the crowd.

You could start out with a short anecdote outlining what the company means to you or how it’s been fundamental in your life. An employer wants to know that you are sincerely excited about the job, not just looking for any position that pays.

Write in the company’s voice.

This is one way you can show that you’ve researched the company you want to work for and will be a good fit for the team. Pay attention to the language they use on their website or in their promotional materials — it all speaks to what the work culture is like there.

If you are able to emulate that tone in your own letter, then you will appear in tune with the job already.

Use the hiring manager’s name

Let’s face it: writing “To Whom It May Concern” at the top of your cover letter is a bit lazy. It’s much more effective if you are able to address the reader directly by name, showing that you went further than the ad listing.

This may require you to do some digging if whoever does the hiring is not apparent after a quick search. Consider using LinkedIn or even reaching out to a friend that has worked at the company in the past.

NEED HELP?

The good people at MacEwan University’s Career Development and Experiential Learning offer free resume and cover letter consultations.

They can even help you tailor your application to a specific job posting. Visit them in room 7-121 on City Centre Campus.