Three Things That Go Into Every Good Cover Letter

By Brett Steenbarger

One of the most overlooked parts of a job application is the cover note that accompanies a resume. Many students spend a good amount of time on their resume, but then send out the same generic cover note to all employers. That is a big mistake. The cover letter is often the first thing that a recruiter will read. It’s your opportunity to make an impression. Sending a generic form letter to employers is like sending a blank greeting card to a relative on their birthday. It doesn’t make anyone feel special.

The first thing to keep in mind when applying for jobs is that the cover letter should be individualized for each position and employer that you’re pursuing. The letter needs to convey, not just that you’re a promising graduate, but that you are especially promising for the position being offered.

So what goes into a good cover letter? Here are three ingredients:

1) A summary of your background and the curricular and extracurricular experiences, as well as the knowledge and skills that make you special.

2) A summary of what you know about the employer and why you are especially interested in them. The more you show that you’ve done your homework on the employer, the more they will see that you are particularly interested in them for the right reasons.

3) An explanation of why you believe there is a very good fit between what you bring to a position and what the organization is looking for. You want the recruiter to see that you have what it takes to be a success in their setting.

That’s it. A good cover letter is one page and shows how the background you’ve summarized in your resume makes you a great candidate for the job. That puts you miles ahead of candidates who submit generic form letters to employers.

Most employers want candidates who have a track record of responsibility where they work well individually and with others in teams. They also want candidates who display a history of hard work and achievement. Including these elements in a resume and highlighting them in a cover letter will help you stand out in a competitive job market!

Brett Steenbarger

Connect-123's Director of Student Development, Brett N. Steenbarger, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and a performance psychologist for professionals in the world of finance. He is the author of numerous books on psychology and financial markets and loves connecting with students during their internships and beyond!


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