Make Your Cover Letter Count in a Competitive Job Market
Today’s primary modes of communication are e-mail, text messages, and web pages. The job search process is no different. Most job searches are done on the Internet, and job seekers e-mail their resumes or complete online applications.
Given these facts: Are cover letters still necessary?
While the answer varies, the majority of human resource representatives and recruiters say yes. Done the right way, a cover letter can capture the second glance needed in a competitive job market.
There are two tips for crafting a catchy cover letter: follow the formula and personalize it.
Tip #1: Follow the formula
Cover letters contain four components with one essential question answered in each.
Paragraph One – Introduction
Who are you and why are you writing?
Paragraph Two – Highlight of Qualifications
How has your education, previous employment, or other experiences repared you for the position?
Paragraph Three – Connection to the Company
Why is this company or job a good fit for you?
Paragraph Four – Closing Statement
How interested are you and where can you be reached for an interview?
Tip #2: Personalize it
Paragraphs one and four follow standard formats. The opportunity for your application to connect with a recruiter is in paragraphs two and three.
Paragraph Two: Draw attention to yourself
When you read the job description and you declared, “I’m perfect for this job!” Tell the recruiter why. Is it because of a particular course you studied? Did you complete an internship that allowed you to perform similar duties and responsibilities? Were you able to develop a skill set through a part-time job or campus activity that is applicable to this position?
Make the connection between your past and this job. Don’t repeat your resume, but rather make reference to items on it that you especially want the recruiter to be aware of.
Paragraph Three: “Professional Flattery”
Your job search will reveal many positions for which you are qualified, but not all of them are of interest. What makes this position or company different? Pinpoint specifics about the job description that catch your eye. Research the organization. If the company product or workplace philosophy is appealing, tell the recruiter why.
Avoid empty compliments. Recruiters can spot meaningless sweet talk a mile away.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Applicants sometimes forget professionalism, and even common sense, when it comes to e-mailing and the job search. If your e-mail contains any of the following, hit the delete button.
- A risqué e-mail address. Use a basic e-mail address comprised of your name, initials, or something similar. Save
for corresponding with friends.
- Greeting the recruiter by their first name. If you know the recruiter’s name, don’t forget that Mr. or Ms. is still necessary. Just because Ms. Jane Doe lists her first name doesn’t mean you can call her Jane.
- A salutation that doesn’t begin with “Dear.” This is a business letter. Beginning the correspondence with “Greetings,” “Hello,” or “Hi There!” is not acceptable.
- Emoticons. 8-) :-( ;-) Emoticons are used to convey attitudes or emotions, both of which are irrelevant in a cover letter.
- Acronyms. LOL, COB, FAQs. As with emoticons, acronyms have no place in job-search correspondence, unless they are standard acronyms, such as that used for a company or association. For example: NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) is appropriate. “The 411 about NACE is very positive” is not.
by Kelli Robinson
JobWeb.com - Career and Internship Center and job-search advice for the new college graduate
Timeline for Applying to Graduate School
Begin planning for graduate school at least a year prior to when you would like to enter. Deadlines vary depending on the program, though, and it is important that you begin identifying potential schools/programs early and are clear on individual deadlines!
If you are considering graduate school, you need to begin your search for possible programs the fall of your junior year.
- Meet with staff in the Career and Internship Center for assistance as you begin the search
- Attend Graduate/Professional school fairs both on- and off-campus
- Request information from programs that spark your interest
- Consider making a visit to those schools/programs of most interest to you
- Begin to explore financial aid resources - the Career and Internship Center can assist!
By the spring and summer of your junior year, you should have a fairly good idea of places you intend to apply and know the deadlines you face in the fall.
- Develop a personal statement using faculty and the Career and Internship Center as resources to create the best possible document for your field.
- Register and prepare for required standardized tests.
- Develop an application timeline for all schools to which you are applying - the process takes too much effort to be eliminated because you've missed a deadline!
Fall of your senior year is the time to be sure everything is in order and submitted on time!
- Ensure you know how to apply for each school and have all the materials needed
- Finalize essays and personal statements for each application
- Request letters of recommendation from faculty - provide reference writers with your resume, personal statement, proper forms, adequate time to write the letters, and directions for handling the letters
- Consider doing a mock interview with faculty or videotaped in the Career and Internship Center prior to professional school admissions interviews
- Take your required standardized tests
- Complete the applications - cutting and pasting information from word documents helps in ensuring there are no typing errors. Be sure to proofread the application before sending.
- Order transcripts from the Registrar's Office - include fall semester grades if available prior to the deadline
By spring of your senior year, many application deadlines have passed. Hopefully you are not waiting until the final deadline to submit your application! This is the time to await word on acceptance and finalize financing.
- If you haven't yet completed your application submissions, you need to do that now
- Complete financial aid forms - you may need to include a copy of your income tax return so consider getting that done early
- Contact schools to be sure your application was submitted if you haven't received notice and verify the timeline for acceptance
- Write thank you notes to the many people who have assisted you in the application process