For every student, there will come a time when you will need to prepare a cover letter. Whether that be to launch a career in your chosen field, build your resume with experience through internships or volunteering, or simply apply for a temporary position while you work your way through school.
A cover letter is the first thing the person reviewing applications will see and is often the key to determining whether to look at an applicant’s resume. It allows the potential employer to get a glimpse of the person behind the resume far better than a list of job and school experience could ever afford. A cover letter should demonstrate why you are the perfect person for the job and deserve to move to the interview stage of the hiring process.
When writing your cover letters, think about the ways your life experience (not just previous work) could contribute to the company and the position. Keep it short and simple – three to four paragraphs to keep the reader interested.
Before you run off to write that job-grabbing letter, make sure you are gearing it to the right audience. The following are the three main types of cover letters you may need to write in your job search.
Application Cover Letter
This type of cover letter is the most commonly used, and will be unique to every position you apply for. Each job application should include a cover letter that you have written specifically for that role. These letters are preferred by recruiters in as many as 74% of job applications, so it definitely pays to add one.
Use keywords from the job description when discussing your skills and their relevance. It may feel a bit on the nose, but these are the keystones that employers are looking for applicants to hit when they read their submissions.
Prospecting Cover Letter
The prospecting cover letter is sent to companies that fit your career goals and that you have the desire to work for. Those companies may not be hiring for a specific position at the time but the letter is intended to let them know your experience and values align with theirs and that you have an interest in being contacted should they be looking to hire.
- Research the general sector’s keywords/skills
- Determine who exactly you are addressing
- Grab their attention quickly
- Demonstrate your value
- List your skills that align with their values/needs
- Include a follow-up call-to-action
Networking Cover Letter
The networking cover letter is similar to the prospecting, in that they are used to further career goals by targeting a general field rather than a specific job opening. The difference is that a networking letter will be sent to people in your network who work in or around the desired field, rather than to a specific company.
As a student, you may not possess a ton of job experience in your career field of choice. However, when it comes to entering the workforce it can be all about who you know, instead of what.
Make a list of those you would consider part of your network, and try to think outside the box – they don’t need to be former employers, but people who know you and your strengths and can act as referrals for your abilities. This could include teachers/professors, family, and friends. Anyone who knows you can attest to why you should be considered for any job openings that pop up.
Cover letters give you the chance to add personality to your touchstone communication with a potential employer. And, at the very least, they’ll show you are an engaged, hard-working individual who is thoughtful in their approach to work.