By: Beth Mannella, Career Advising Fellow
As the first month of the New Year winds down, it is time to reconsider New Year’s resolutions. Have you set resolutions and kept them? I have not been one to set resolutions in the past, but as this 10-month fellowship gears up to begin recruiting for the 2016-2017 Career Advising Fellows, I have set personal goals of updating my resume, cover letter, and reference documents.
Regardless of where you fall in terms of searching for a new position, updating your cover letter will take time, effort, and attention to details. Latisha and I recently finished teaching a 3-week January term Transition Strategies course and had the opportunity to review first and second drafts of our students’ cover letters. Then, we held a cover letter workshop for first-year students in one of Elon’s residential neighborhoods! Kicking off the New Year with a new cover letter might be exactly the resolution you need.
As you review your cover letter(s) and make revisions, here are four suggestions to keep in mind. Remember, every cover letter should be tailored to the specific position you are applying for, so do not be afraid to personalize it. In addition, you will find that cover letters vary based on your writing style and the position you are applying for! Please note – my suggestions are mere suggestions, which stem from my experiences as a career advisor, instructor, and job seeker.
- Header: I recommend students use the same header for all position materials: resume, cover letter, and references. This allows for your documents to be cohesive, which is helpful when an application requires that all documents are submitted in one PDF file. Having a consistent header also allows for your materials to look uniform. *If you have an updated LinkedIn profile, be sure to customize your unique URL and paste it into your header. Don’t forget to un-hyperlink it though!
- Formatting: Be sure to keep everything left aligned. It might feel strange to have your paragraphs begin at the far left, but this is traditional cover letter formatting. Also, for margins, I recommend using the same margins for your resume, cover letter, and references (again for consistency).
- Tell A Story: Your resume (which is also updated, right?) will give specific, detailed examples of the work you have completed throughout various experiences. Your cover letter is a space where you can tell a story. Do not repeat exactly what your resume says. Instead, choose relevant experiences that relate to the position you are applying for. In each middle paragraph (aim for 1-2), tell a story that guides the reader through your skills and experiences.
- The Closing Paragraph: We want our cover letter to speak to our qualifications and skills, as well as give reasons for why we want the job! In your closing paragraph, use 3-4 sentences to remind the reader of a few skills you bring and thank the person in advance for considering your candidacy. Notice how I do not suggest reminding the reader of how to contact you? This information is above in your header, so no need to use space on it in the closing. Finally, if you have the capabilities to sign your signature, scan it as a PDF, then crop the image, this is a great way to imbed your actual signature on your cover letter.
As you revise your cover letter(s), I hope you will keep these suggestions in mind. Just remember to proofread, proofread, and proofread (and have someone else read your cover letter) before you submit it for a job application! Happy New Year, and happy cover letter-writing!