It's important to find positive ways to communicate your skills, education and experience to an employer in your cover letter and interview. But it can be easy to use phrasing or language that negativity describes you or draws attention to deficits instead of strengths. Rethink how you promote yourself and be careful to keep your emphasis positive.
Emphasize what you have (not what you lack)
Scene: Applying for a job and you meet 80% of the requirements
Cover letter reads: I have been academically successful in my classes related to communication, research and writing which is why I confidently feel I could learn __________ quickly.
Cover letter reads: I am a fast learner, a skill I have demonstrated (insert example) which is why I feel prepared to take on new responsibilities in _________________.
Cover letter reads: I have had success with _______ and ________ which makes me an excellent fit for your opening.
NOT: I have not taken courses in __________ but I do have a strong work ethic and could learn this quickly.
NOT: I don’t have experience in __________ but meet the rest of your qualification requirements.
Scene: You are pitching an internship proposal to an employer
Your pitch: I would love to show you how an internship position could help your team by implementing some of my creative ideas into your strategies.
Your pitch: This opportunity would allow me to put into practice the very ideas and concepts I have been studying and help you meet your client needs while I gain hands on experience in a field I am passionate about.
Your Pitch: I am confident I would be a valuable addition to you team because….
Your Pitch: The advantage of hiring a sophomore intern is...
NOT: I am only a sophomore but...
NOT: I know you haven’t had a student worker before but I could be an asset.
NOT: I know you aren’t hiring but….
Emphasize transferable skills
Scene: You are demonstrating how your degree relates to specific industry or employer
Your message: My degree has a great deal of transferable skills that would compliment the work you do including …..
Your message: When I read _____ and ____ in the job description I immediately made a connection to my class topics in _________...
Your message: My studies in _______ and _______ are a great fit for this position because they prepared me for _______.
NOT: I know a _______ major is a rare hire for your company but….
NOT: I realize you normally prefer a ________student but…
Scene: Interviewer asks “Why do you want to work for us?”
Your response: I was impressed with your company because….
Your response: My skills are very complementary to your work with….
Your response: You company and my career goals align by…..
NOT: I want more experience with...
NOT: I hope to learn __________from this role.
Emphasize How You Learn
Scene: Interviewer asks “What do you know about (insert topic you have no knowledge on)”.
Your response: That’s a great question, I can see how it would relate to this position. I would love to learn more about that, and I have some ideas on how I could do a quick study on it before the internship start date. Could I instead answer your question by telling you a little about a related topic from one of my recent seminar classes?
Your response: I expected to be asked some questions that I have limited knowledge on and I prepared by starting some research. I need to look into that area more closely and see if there is a class next semester on the topic which I could complete before beginning employment with you in June.
NOT: Well I haven’t taken a class on that yet but I could do some research in that area in the near future.
NOT: My major isn't related to that topic yet but it sounds interesting.
NOT: I don’t know much on that topic.
Scene: Interviewer asks “Describe a weakness.”
First describe real weakness and a situation it relates to using the STAR method followed by:
Your response: … and as a result of that experience I learned ___________.
Your response:… having that experience would help me approach a similar situation differently in the future by…..
Your response:… and reflecting on that situation now I can realize…..
NOT: But that situation wasn’t my fault.
NOT: But I have put that experience behind me.