5.1.6. Building/sending your cover letters

The cover letter has become a very important marketing tool when searching for a job. It is extremely important to send good cover letters, as they are your entrance tickets to the companies – by getting you invited to interview with the company. Some helpful hints:

– Send them early (but not to early): Sending your cover letters early will improve your chances of getting in the short closed lists (sort of first mover advantage). However, sending them too early might result in the letter being lost by the time the recruiter starts putting the list together. For internship, make sure you send them by November (early December at most); for full-time, start as soon as the second year begins.

– Specify the location you are applying for: Avoid having your resume bounced to your region’s recruiter – specify an office location if applicable.

– Link your skills to the position requirements: This is the place to talk about your skills and let the company know how they will benefit their company. Be as specific as possible.

– Make targeted cover-letters: Avoid a one-letter-fits-all approach. Try to carefully craft each cover letter to the specific industry and specific company, highlighting pieces from your work experience that will suit the company’s needs and culture. Read carefully the company’s job description, and try to compose sentences that directly address their requirements. If this seems to be too much work, it is; but it is worth the results. If you cannot manage to do it that way, try to make at least the most important ones targeted.

– Mention somebody: The cover letter will be much more effective if you mention somebody who either recommended you or simply somebody you talked to. It doesn’t have to be the company’s president (although that might help), it can simply be someone you met at a presentation or even someone who interned there.

– Review very carefully each cover letter: Most people believe a cover letter will not help you very much in your search – but everybody agrees it can work against you when done carelessly. Many mistakes can occur while writing letters in bulk, and can range from embarrassing to irritating (in any case, they can seriously thwart your efforts as it shows lack of attention or interest on your part). Have someone (especially from the Placement Office) review every letter you write; since this is not always possible, ask a collegemate or a friend – they could be even better at spotting typos. The most common (and terrible) mistake – addressing it to a company and later on mentioning the wrong person or another company in the body.