• Career Center

Writing Cover Letters

Cover letters are required for many job and internship applications, which means they are used to make hiring decisions. Here is how you can write a customized cover letter to earn an interview.


Start with Clear and Organized Formatting

Begin by matching your cover letter to your resume by including the same header (name, contact information). You should then create business memo formatting by including the date, a specific person you are addressing and their business address and job title. Do your research if need be, is the person listed in the job posting? Can you identify the department head via the company website? Is the recruiter on LinkedIn? Make an effort to identify a specific person whenever possible, this will go a long way in demonstrating you have done company research. Though this takes up some room on the document, it is considered the preferred layout.


Don’t:

To whom it may concern,


Do:

Dear (first and last name of contact person),

Dear Intern Hiring manager,

Dear (company name) Search Committee,


Customize

In the first paragraph you should specifically mention the job you want to apply to and why. What about this position interests you? Why do you want to work for this company? Include 1-3 sentences customized to the position to show your interest in that unique role or organization.


In the second paragraph you should also customize the skills, experience and details you include that qualify you for this role. You don’t need to discuss everything in your resume, instead take time to elaborate on the experiences, classes or skills you have that best prepared you for this position. Take your cues from the job posting itself and match your qualifications to what they have listed there.


Don’t:

You are looking for someone with communication skills and I feel confident I met that criteria.


Do:

Recently, I developed communication skills by working directly with customers at my work study positions. There I regularly interact via in person, phone and email to answer questions, schedule appointments and connect customers to products that match their needs. I am confident my experience with customer service has prepared me to take on _______ duties with your company.


Be a Storyteller and Share Specific Details

Remember that your cover letter is always submitted with your resume, so you don’t need to simply repeat the information found there. Instead the letter is your chance to elaborate on details and situations that align best with the job. Tell a short story instead of listing qualifications, be descriptive and help the reader understand the full situation. This will help the reader get to know you but also make the letter more memorable and interesting.


Don’t:

I have experience working in groups and I am a strong team member.


Do:

In my thermal dynamics class I worked on a team of four to create a circuit using…. Because of this teamwork experience, I am prepared to work with your intern team to collaborate and work as a unit.


Take the Time to Make it Well Written and Error Free

Each cover letter should receive attention from you, avoid writing a generic letter that you use for all applications. Even similar roles will vary in company culture and position details, so you should customize your letter. Take the time to use the cover letter to demonstrate your writing skills. Things like varied sentence structure, paragraph transitions, and without typos or grammatical errors will show you are a strong communicator. One of the best ways to ensure you have a well written document is to get help with proof reading and review.


Career Lab (walk in hours)

Monday - Friday, 10 am - 3 pm in Maginnes 500.


Put the Emphasis on what You Can Offer Them (Not How the Job Benefits You)

One of the most common misstep in cover letters is when the writer points out how the position will benefit them. It's always the stronger move to show an employer how you can help them. Consider their perspective, they hire for their business needs (not to give you new skills).


Don’t:

This position would allow me to learn how to grow my skills while giving me hands on experience.


Do:

I feel I would be an asset to your team by applying the skills I have learned through my classwork and campus involvement.


Avoid a Negative Voice or Pointing Out Missing Credentials

It's common that there would be at least 1-2 areas that you don’t meet all the job requirements. Position descriptions are written for an ideal candidate but often meeting most of the criteria is also acceptable, and on the job training can fill in the missing pieces. When writing your cover letter you should draw attention to the credentials you do have, not the areas you lack.


Don’t:

I haven’t had experience/classwork in that area yet.


Do:

Because I have been successful learning X and Y, I am confident I could learn Z easily in order to quickly contribute to the team.


How to Address Relocation

A candidate who is relocating can be one of the most risky hires, after all that individual is moving to a new town which can require lots of adjustments. Its best to simply acknowledge this and point out you are eager to make it work.


Don’t:

I was not familiar with your area until reading the job posting but I am ready to relocate.


Do:

As a current Philadelphia native, I am already familiar with city living and looking forward to the relocation to New York City. I recently made a trip to the area, where I have some extended family and found it was a location that suits me personally and professionally. I look forward to starting a professional career within a region known for growth and opportunity.


Don’t Forget Your Please and Thank Yous

The final paragraph is for wrap up. This can be concise without taking room to repeat or summarize what you already said. Its always important to thank the reader for their time and you can even ask for the interview, but never phrase this as if the interview is a guarantee. Stress your interest and be sincere, not entitled.


Don’t:

I will call to schedule the interview.


Do:

I would appreciate the opportunity to meet in person so I can discuss more about how Lehigh and my internship has prepared me for this position. Thank you for your time.


Need more help with your cover letter?

Review the Cover Letter resource tile on Handshake.

Bring your cover letter draft to Career Lab for review and feedback, Mon-Fri, 10 am - 3 pm in 500 MG.

Center for Career & Professional Development

Maginnes Suite 500

(610) 758-3710

careercenter@lehigh.edu

#hirelehigh

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