Cover letters are a great way to introduce yourself to a potential employer and explain why they should hire you. A cover letter should address 3 fundamental issues: why you want the job you’re applying for; why you would be able to do the job you’re applying for; and what you will do to improve the company/organization.

The first issue you should address is why you’re applying for the job. While it’s sometimes to start a cover letter with “My name is _____, and I am submitting an application to be ______”, it’s much better to start a cover letter with something more original. I started a cover letter to intern at NPR with this paragraph:

“I grew up listening to NPR. Steve Inskeep and Renée Montagne kept me up to date with the news; the Magliozzi brothers taught me most of what I know about cars (which, admittedly, is not that much); and more recently, Peter Sagal and Ophira Eisenberg have been quizzing me about the news and random trivia. An internship with NPR in Washington, DC would perfectly combine my passions for politics and journalism, while also giving me the opportunity to work with the organization that has been an important part of my life.”

The introduction of your cover letter is a great place to explain why you want the position you’re applying for. Be sure to research the organization’s history and mission; try to incorporate your research into your cover letter. If you can’t incorporate that information in the cover letter, make note of it so you can use it if you get an interview. Be creative with your introduction if possible because it will help the employer remember your application specifically. Additionally, it will encourage the employer to read the rest of your letter.

The next issue you should address is why you’re qualified for the job. In this section, you should highlight the parts of your resume that would specifically help you if hired. If the employer provided specific skills and experience that they’re looking for, emphasize those in your letter, ideally though short narratives.

Finally, you should explain any ideas you have to improve the organization/company. If you don’t have any, that’s okay, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with the organization. Your research might come in handy again here.

SOME OTHER TIPS:

  • The header of your cover letter should match the header of your resume. This will help you create a personal brand and hopefully ensure that the employer remembers you. See the resume tips blog post for information about how to format your header.
  • Just like a resume, a cover letter should be no longer than one page!
  • Proofread your cover letter multiple times to check or grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Don’t simply summarize your resume, especially you also submit your resume as a part of the application. Emphasize the most pertinent parts of your experience.
  • If you can name drop, do it! This is the perfect place for it.
  • Don’t spend the whole cover letter explaining why you want to work for them. It’s more important to explain what you can do for them.
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