5 Steps to Creating a Great Cover Letter

You have found the perfect position, but one thing standing in your way to applying is the cover letter. How do you showcase your skills, engage the employer, and convince them that you are the right person all in ONE page? Targeting each letter you write to the position is crucial for catching a hiring team’s attention.

Here are 5 steps to get you started:

  1. Create a great “hook”: It is important to grab the employer’s attention. In the first paragraph share a story that will encourage the reviewer to continue reading. Maybe you studied abroad, or you volunteered in Walla Walla, or you edited a local neighborhood newsletter. Show the employer what makes you unusual from the start.
  2. Focus on the company: Identify what you can bring to the company. Stay away from what you will gain from working for them and concentrate instead on how you can contribute to their work. Do your research. Look up the organization’s mission statement and learn about what types of projects or new products they are developing. Get a sense of the company climate and culture. As you explain why you are applying for this position, convey your passion for what this organization is doing. They want to know what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
  3. Read the job description thoroughly: What skills and abilities is an employer looking for? Explain your qualifications by focusing on 2-3 experiences you have had, and highlight the skills you have gained that align with what the employer wants. Here is a secret: When an employer creates a job description, the Preferred and Minimum Requirements sections are like a recipe–try to include as many of the listed ingredients as possible in what you write.
  4. Be skills-focused: Highlight 2-3 relevant skills. Structure your middle paragraph around these skills and write 2-3 sentences that specifically showcase how your experiences have helped you develop these skills. You want to give the employer a few intriguing examples that will pique their curiosity.
  5. Finally, be yourself: Remember that hiring mangers read a lot of applications. It’s important to write a letter that stands out–ideally your personality shines through even as you maintain a professional tone. Too much chattiness, humor, or informality is discouraged.

With these tips and a bit of focused practice you will be on your way to landing those interviews!

Crafting an engaging letter takes time but is worth the effort. One way to improve what you submit is to schedule a cover letter review appointment via Handshake with a staff member in the Student Engagement Center before you apply.  For additional SEC advice about cover letters, check out the resources on our website

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