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Writing your Cover Letter

Cover Letter Pre-Submission Checklist

Before submitting your letter, always review them for the following:

  • Is the company name and address correct?
  • Is the salutation correct?
  • Have you dated the letter?
  • Is all your contact information (name, address, home phone, cell phone, email) correct?
  • Does your letter state the position you are applying for and where it was listed?
  • Is your letter focused, concise, clear and well-organized?
  • Does your letter tell the employer what you can do for them?
  • Does your letter demonstrate your knowledge of the company?
  • Is the letter correctly laid out with consistent margins and the text properly positioned on the page?
  • Have you read the cover letter out loud to make sure there are no missing words?
  • Have you signed the letter?
  • Have you have kept a copy for your records?
  • Have you checked the spelling and grammar?

Cover Letter Contents

A well-constructed cover letter is just as important to the job search process as your resume. It is often your best chance to make a strong first impression with a prospective employer. If it is subpar, they may not even look at your resume. When looking for internship positions, your cover letters needs to be customized for each position. If you use a template letter for every job posting, potential employers will know you have not invested any time in your application, and will not give you serious consideration. Cover letters show an employer:

  • How well you communicate
  • What you know about the organization and expresses your interest in the job
  • Your level of professionalism

The purpose of a cover letter is to complement, not summarize, your resume in one page or less. With it, your goal is to:

  • Convince an organization that they could benefit from hiring you.
  • Highlight the parts of your resume that are most relevant to the job posting.
  • Convey your genuine interest in the job and the organization you are applying to.

Format and Structure

The type of letter you will be using to apply for internship positions is the application letter. Effective application letters usually follow a standard one-page format of three to four paragraphs and are used specifically to apply to an advertised job posting. Begin with a brief opening, follow with an explanation of why the employer should hire you, then explain why you want to work there, and finish with a brief conclusion.

The salutation is the formal greeting in a cover letter. It usually takes the form of "Dear X" followed by a comma. When applying for a full-time job, it is common practice for job seekers to avoid addressing letters "To Whom It May Concern" and try to personalize the salutation, if possible, by addressing it to the person who will be reviewing and/or processing it.  For the purposes of internship, students are not required to personalize cover letters unless a contact name is provided in the job posting.

The first paragraph is your opportunity to grab the recruiter's attention. Do not waste it with a generic introduction. State clearly why you want to be considered and how the organization would benefit from hiring you over any other candidate. Remember you have only two or three sentences to make your case before the recruiter moves on to the next application. In this paragraph, be sure to make reference to the specific position you are applying for and where you heard about it.

Use the middle paragraphs to highlight your qualifications for the job and illustrate how your experiences and achievements relate to the position. This is your sales pitch to a prospective employer. Do not waste this opportunity by summarizing all of your accomplishments. Choose examples from your resume that best align with the qualifications listed in the job posting. Use persuasive language to market yourself but avoid exaggeration when making your pitch because you will have to back up anything you write if you are called in for an interview. In this section, you should also provide specific reasons for your interest in the organization.

In the final paragraph, briefly re-state your enthusiasm for the job and the organization, and thank the recruiter for taking the time to consider your application. Full-time job seekers also use the closing paragraph to indicate how they intend to follow up; usually this would be a phone call to the organization a week or two after sending in your resume and cover letter to check on the status of your application. If you say you will follow up, do it. You increase your chances of getting noticed when you politely pursue a job rather than passively wait for an employer to call you. Schulich interns are not required to include reference to following up in their internship cover letters, however it can be an effective way to show your interest to employers.

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