How Do I Start This Freakin’ Cover Letter?

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You’ve finally done it. After days, maybe weeks, perhaps even months of wading through internship possibilities, you’ve narrowed your list down to a handful of prospective employers who would be lucky to have you. Your credentials meet their expectations, their program meets your needs and you want nothing more than to meet them in person for an interview.

Only one thing stands between you and landing the interview: a cover letter. 

In the age of Facebook walls and tweets, the idea of addressing anyone — let alone a total stranger — through a letter can be daunting. However, if you follow these simple steps to brainstorming your cover letter, you’ll be face-to-face with the hiring manager in no time.

College Magazine has compiled five steps to ensuring your cover letter will get noticed by the employers that matter most to you.

Step 1: Know your recipient.

“To whom it may concern” is generally not appropriate, especially if it says somewhere on the company’s website who handles hiring or leads your preferred department. Do your best to address the reader by name, using Dear Dr./Mr./Ms. _______.  Do not make the mistake of assuming that someone named Alex is male or someone named Logan is female. If you are truly stumped, “Dear Hiring Manager” is acceptable.

Step 2: Make a list of everything about the company’s website that jumps out at you.

By referencing specific examples of what sets this company apart from the rest, you will show that you have done your research. If you find anything that the company is involved in, such as charity work or a highly publicized project, commend their work.

Step 3: Consider which elements of your resume make you a desirable employee.

Past internship experiences speak for themselves. Did you develop leadership skills as a shift manager at a grocery store? Have you gained a better understanding of managing finances as the treasurer of your school’s outdoor club? Demonstrate how your skills will come in handy as an intern.

Step 4: Mention your connections.

The more people who can vouch for your character, the better. Even if your next-door-neighbor interned with the company three years ago, dropping her name gives them a reference who can offer them insight on how you would fit in within the company. At the very least, mentioning a referral shows that you have some sense of the people who work for the company and feel confident you belong there.

Step 5: Express your interest in a future interview.

If you’re applying to a business near home but are currently living five hours away at school, wrap up the letter by offering a block of time when you will be in the area to interview, such as an upcoming break. Prove to them that you are forward thinking and deserve to be taken seriously as a candidate.  

Once you have compiled the necessary information, get writing! And remember: proofread, proofread, proofread. Then proofread one more time, just to be sure. 

Junior > Communication and English > Boston College

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