Cover Letter: A formal letter describing the accompanying documents and the reasons for sending them.
Sure, the business dictionary lays it out pretty simply for us: a letter explaining your resume and why you want to work for a certain company. However, as many will tell you like most things in life, it’s never really that easy. After your fifth cover letter to a company that’s just as similar as the last, many students may find themselves questioning:
Why do I have to write a cover letter?
As annoying and tedious as cover letters may be, the truth of the matter is cover letters are arguably one of the most crucial aspects of you being hired. Alyssa Hammond, senior associate director of the undergraduate career service center at Bentley University believes they are important for three main reasons.
1. “It’s one of the main components that differentiates you from another student looking to get hired at the same company.” Often times students resumes will overlap in majors, extracurriculars and sometimes even previous work experience. Having the opportunity to share with an employer what really makes you different is valuable.
2. “Your cover letter is the first writing sample an employer will see.” Writing is a skill very much valued by companies today, even for those looking in fields where writing may not be as prominent. It’s important for a student to put their best work forward in their cover letter so companies can see what their writing abilities are.
3. “It’s a more accurate representation of who you are.” Although we may think our lives can sometimes be defined by our school, major and what sports team we play on, employers know there is more to a person. Cover letters allow students to really express who they are and share more about themselves than past achievements.
So, what are the professionals really looking for?
Bob Berluti, partner at Berluti, McLaughlin & Kurchin law firm agrees as someone who hires students out of college often, a cover letter is always important. “I am generally impressed if a student is able to make a connection that is insightful about my firm. A number of students apply for jobs at law firms in the city so I am more impressed if someone were to say specifically why they wanted to work for me, it shows they are more diligent and serious.”
It is crucial that all students take the time to research companies they are looking to apply at. The effort will certainly go a long way in terms of impressing professionals and will almost always pay off in an interview. If a student can determine and point out what it is they like about a particular company, it will benefit them as well.
Dan Burke, CEO of the nonprofit company Lifeworks Inc, further echoes the importance of research by encouraging students to consider how their skill set will match what the company is looking for. “The student should draw attention to why they are a unique fit for the position that is opened and what specifically they can offer.”
Many companies will list their desired requirements in potential candidates. A student should not only mention them in their cover letter, but also consider how they will meet those requirements. If a business is looking for someone who has great team skills and works well with others, students should consider mentioning the sport they played in college or elaborating about their role in student government.
So rather than type up a quick summary of why you desperately need that summer internship, all students should take the time and effort to produce a unique and detailed cover letter. Any professional will assure you, it will be worth it in the end.