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 Guide to Student Cover Letters 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 February 2011


What is a Cover Letter? 
 A cover letter is a way to expand on what is included on your resume: highlighting skills gained, attributes utilized, and passions developed, and then connecting them to a specific job or type of job. The cover letter illustrates how you are prepared, qualified, and motivated to take on the position. Therefore, you must always relate your experiences back to the position description to which you are applying.

Cover Letter Toolkit

Before beginning to write your cover letter, make sure that you have the following in front of you: • Your resume • Job/position description • Company/organization description • Any additional research you are able to conduct about the company and position, including information gathered from a current employee whom you can reference in your letter


 Writing a Cover Letter 


With all of your tools in hand, you are now ready to write your cover letter. To begin, carefully read the job description and do the following: • • •

Highlight specific elements of the job description that you have the skills and/or experience to do Underline all qualifications and note how you have attained them or why you would be able to develop them further Obtain the employer’s address and contact information. Be sure to follow the application instructions explicitly (e.g., include personal references or salary expectations if asked to do so).

Once you have a better understanding of the position and company, you may want to tweak your resume to highlight different aspects of your background that are most relevant. Consider the following when updating your resume for a specific position: •

Creating a new section: Depending on the job description, you can always consider adding a new section if you think it would be relevant to that employer. For example, you might add a section on volunteer experience if you’re looking for similar work now, and noting your language skills or travel history might matter at some times but not others.

Reality check: If the job description describes some task that you have done before or some qualification that you definitely have, double-check your resume. Is it on there? If not, make that change before sending out your resume!

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Fine-tune existing sections: Your computer skills and interests section are always smart to crosscheck against the job description. If the employer is looking for a skill that you have, then it had better be listed on your resume! If you have any hobbies or interests that are relevant to an employer based on the job or industry, you absolutely want to mention those in your Interests section.

Now that you understand the position and organization better, you may begin writing your cover letter. Create an outline by doing the following: •

Compare your resume to the job description, and then do some brainstorming. Write down a list of all the ways that your experiences and skills might connect to that specific job description. This can require some creativity. If the company is looking for someone with good multitasking skills, for example, you really need to look over your experiences at work and school and think about where you best showed that quality. A waitressing job is definitely a great one to tout for multitasking, but you also could talk about juggling full-time school with a part-time job. If the job calls for responsibility, then experience with childcare or lifeguarding might deserve consideration.

Once you’ve listed five or ten possible experiences and skills, pick the best three to mention in your cover letter. At this point, you need to look at your list more critically. Which of these skills and experiences represent your strongest argument for getting hired? Which is a characteristic that you possess that other job candidates might be less likely to possess? For example, many teens could claim to have a good work ethic, but do you have great proof of it because you worked incredibly long hours doing tough work? That might be worth a mention. In general, hard skills—the ability to use computers or to do bookkeeping—are more powerful to emphasize than soft skills, when possible.

Select experiences from your resume that highlight your interest in and passion for the organization’s mission and work. Organizations want to hire people that will be good fits for their culture, and they also want employees who are as passionate about their work as they are. Making a connection between a past volunteer experience at a hospital and a paying position in a doctor’s office would be smart, for example. Spending time creating web pages or fixing the family computer might be good to mention if you’re looking for technology-related work or with a company that values computer skills.

When you have identified three compelling skills or experiences that hopefully differentiate you from other job seekers, then you’ve created what will become the heart of your cover letter. By a wide margin, this is the most important element that your cover letter will include. After a brief introductory paragraph, you’re going to help the employer connect the dots between what you can do and what they need to get done. The following page shows the format for an effective cover letter.

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Cover Letter Format 
 Date
 
 Employer’s
name,
Employer’s
title
 Organization’s
name
 Employer’s
address
 Employer’s
city,
state,
zip
 
 Dear
Mr.
or
Ms.
_________
 
 Paragraph
I
(3‐5
sentences)
 • State
your
reason
for
writing
and
how
 you
heard
about
the
position.
Identify
the
 position
or
type
of
work
that
you
are
 applying
for.
 
 Paragraph
II‐III
(3‐4
sentences
each)
 • State
why
you
want
to
work
for
this
 employer
or
in
this
field,
providing
 relevant
examples
of
your
interest
and
 qualification.
 • Always
relate
your
experience
back
to
the
 position
and
mention
each
qualification
 from
the
position
description.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Paragraph
IV
(2‐3
sentences)
 • Thank
them
and
indicate
next
steps.
 Provide
contact
info.
 
 
 
 Sincerely,
 Student
name


April
1,
2011
 
 Ms.
Employer,
Employer’s
title
 ABC
Company
 1
Employer
Street
 Boston,
MA
01234
 
 Dear
Ms.
Employer,
 
 I
am
writing
in
response
to
your
posting
on
idealist.org
for
 the
Health
Intern
position.
In
June
2011,
I
will
graduate
from
 Boston
Latin
Academy
and
plan
to
undertake
a
healthcare‐ related
internship
for
the
summer.
 
 Because
of
my
interest
and
demonstrated
academic
 excellence
in
the
natural
sciences,
I
plan
to
follow
a
pre‐med
 track
in
college.
I
hope
that
my
internship
experience
will
 allow
me
to
contribute
to
a
local
organization
while
building
 my
knowledge
of
this
field.
 
 Your
job
description
indicates
that
you
are
seeking
someone
 with
excellent
communication
skills,
an
ability
to
coordinate
 multiple
tasks,
and
the
interpersonal
skills
needed
to
build
 relationships
with
volunteers.

Last
spring,
I
coordinated
a
 health
fair
on
campus
in
which
20
organizations
participated.
 This
project
gave
me
hands‐on
experience
and
a
better
 understanding
of
the
needs
of
healthcare
organizations.


 
 Additionally,
my
knowledge
of
biology,
combined
with
the
 excellent
writing
skills
acquired
through
my
coursework,
will
 help
me
to
prepare
interesting
and
informative
programs
and
 publications.

Your
agency
plays
a
vital
role
in
securing
both
 professional
and
financial
resources
to
help
alleviate
the
 suffering
of
others,
and
I
would
be
proud
to
be
a
part
of
that
 mission.
 
 In
my
desire
to
make
a
difference
in
the
Greater
Boston
 community,
I
would
welcome
the
opportunity
to
meet
with
 you
to
discuss
the
intern
position.
I
will
call
you
next
week
to
 follow
up
on
my
application.
Meanwhile,
I
may
be
reached
at
 (617)
123‐4567
or
via
email
at
student@email.com.
Thank
 you
in
advance
for
your
consideration.
 
 Sincerely,
 Student
name
 


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TeenLife Cover Letter Guide