Tag Archives: cover letter

Can Your Cover Letter REALLY Make Someone Smile?

We’ve discussed in previous posts about how cover letters can be TOUGH.  It’s hard to explain why you’re a perfect fit in a concise, personable manner- but still make sure it doesn’t come across as bragging. Moreover, it’s hard to make sure your cover letter stands out from the sea of dozens of other cover letters. To help you out, Jenny Foss of TheMuse explains what she looks for in a cover letter from a recruiter standpoint. By knowing what recruiters are looking for, it will be easier for you to make sure your cover letter will rise to the top of the pile!

  1. Give the company a specific reason why you are interested in them.  Everyone wants to feel special, and a representative of your dream company is no different. Like that they have a day of service each quarter? Let them know! Appreciate the outstanding service you’ve received from them? Tell them!
  2. Tell them exactly what you can deliver. Focus on key points of their candidate requirements, and explain how you have those qualifications. Let them know how you have used them in a professional setting.
  3. Make it personal by telling your story.  Add in a fun fact about yourself that may contribute to your career choice, or interest in that particular position or company.
  4. Address it to a real person. Yes, it’s tedious and can be hard to find exactly who will be reading your letter.  Let Google and LinkedIn be your friend and try to find the head of the department your position would be with, or at least someone related to hiring within HR.

It goes without saying that your cover letter should be well formatted, and free of grammar and spelling mistakes. It should be in formal language with no slang, text talk, or emojis. But most importantly, it should be a good representation of who you are- not a stuffy, overly-professional version of you. To get more insight from Ms. Foss, check out her entire article here: https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-cover-letters-that-make-hiring-managers-smile-then-call-you-1


Be A Grammar Nerd!

Jim Schreier recently posted an article on Careerealism about the 5 grammar mistakes everyone should avoid having on their resumes. Many job seekers would argue “why is it such a big deal if I use ‘there’ or ‘their’? Who cares if I use the wrong ‘to’? It’s all just typos!” More and more, hiring managers are using typos and grammar errors to eliminate possible candidates- errors show carelessness and inattention to detail. Here are Schreiers’ big 5 grammar mistakes everyone should avoid:

  1. Impact, Affects, and Effects- This is a huge mistake because they’re vital to your accomplishment statements. “Affects” is used as a verb. “Effects” and “Impacts” are both verbs.
  2. There, They’re, and Their- This is a common mistake. If you aren’t sure which form to use, don’t hesitate to ask someone to read over and make sure for you. “There” refers to a place. “They’re” is a contraction for “They are.” “Their” is a possessive.
  3. Too, To, and Two- All too often, this is played off as a typo. Don’t be careless here! “Two” references the number. “Too” is used in place of “as well” or to include something else.
  4. It’s and its- This is another frequent typo, but can make a big difference it what you are conveying. “Its” is possessive. “It’s” is a contraction for “it is” or “it has.”
  5. You’re and Your- An all too common mistake that can change the meaning of your sentence. “You’re” is a short form for “you are,” while “your” is another possessive.

Schreier makes other good points and provides much more detail in his full article, which you can read here: http://www.careerealism.com/resume-grammar-mistakes/

What to Avoid When Writing Your Cover Letter

Recently, we’ve had numerous students come in, stressing over their resumes and, in turn, their cover letters. They work hard to match their cover letters to each job posting, carefully pinpointing why they are the perfect candidate. When a student sees what goes into writing a cover letter, they find the process to be fairly easy and less intimidating. However, just as there are things that every cover letter SHOULD include, there are also things a cover letter SHOULD NOT include. Our friends at Careerealism have a great post on the six blunders you shouldn’t have in a cover letter. You can see the excellent examples- and explanations- in their article here: http://www.careerealism.com/cover-letter-blunders/. In essence, the six blunders are:

1. Writing a cover letter that is too self-serving
2. Coming off as overly desperate
3. Adding details that are irrelevant
4. Not proofreading and seeming careless
5. Writing a lacking, or too short cover letter
6. Alternatively, writing a lengthy cover letter

A cover letter is clearly about content and conveying how you would be an asset in a given role. However, just as there are things to avoid in a resume, there are also things to avoid in your cover letter. Remember your cover letter and resume are your first impression, and you don’t want either to put you in the “No” pile!

Are You A “People Person?”

The season of On Campus Recruiting is upon us, and one of the questions we see so many student struggle to answer is “Are You A People Person?”  Or, they’ll confidently put “People Person” on their resume, but then are unsure of how to convey that in their interview.  Don’t worry, the Culture and Manners Institute at http://www.cultureandmanners.com/  is here to save the day!


“I’m a people person.”

What does that even mean?  It makes me think of people who say, “I’m a dog person” or “a cat person.”

The idea is to show potential employers (or potential clients) you get along with people without saying, “My etiquette skills rock.”  Because in a me-focused world, employers want to know if you will get along with others or be a human volcano of bickering, fighting, gossiping, whining, blaming… and leaving a splash of coffee on the bottom of the coffee pot to burn, instead of refilling it after you take the last cup.  Nobody wants that in their workplace.

There’s a better way to show you get along with others and that’s to say it on your resume (or sales materials) by starting each bullet point with what I call, “I-work-well-with-others action words.”

  •  Collaborated with…
  • Teamed with
  • Involved with team
  • Negotiated
  • Contributed
  • Joined
  • Joined forces with
  • Worked together with
  • Supported
  • Cooperated
  • Co-authored
  • Resolved
  • Assembled group of

Mix these words with bullet points of individual initiative and leadership action words: (Managed, Specialized in, Supervised, Initiated, Delivered, Designed, Motivated, Selected, Directed, Drove, Created, Trained, Coached, Counseled, Researched, Edited, Produced, Fostered, Enhanced…) and you have a winning resume.  All of these action words work well in your cover letters and the actual interview, too.

What to Avoid When Writing a Cover Letter

What to Avoid When Writing a Cover Letter

We talk a lot about writing a resume, but we don’t talk about cover letters nearly enough. Here are some great tips from Careerealism to keep in mind as your write yours! Remember, your resume and cover letter should never go anywhere without each other (unless your specifically told when you apply to only include one)

The Cover Letter Burger

Yes, you read that right. A cover letter burger. Veggie, cheese, turkey, extra bacon bleu cheese- and cover letter.

When I work with students, I find it’s easier for them to understand a not-so-everyday-concept if it’s put in the context of an everyday item. Hence, the Cover Letter Burger was born.

The seeds on top of the bun are the little things that are necessary to include in a formal business letter: contact information, salutation, thank you, and indicating there is an attachment or enclosure. It’s that little extra touch to show how professional you are.

Then comes the top bun. No one likes a lot of bun, right? It gets in the way of the burger. So, just like we want a small bun, we also want a small introduction paragraph. Introduce yourself, explain how you found the job/internship, and say something nice about their company/organization/school to personalize it.

Your toppings, instead of lettuce, pickle, and extra ketchup, will be information about you that may not be particularly relevant. Your campus involvement, volunteer work, a study abroad experience where you took gen ed classes, a job that has transferable skills. Good information to add some insight, but not the main focus.

Now we get to the “meat” of the cover letter (get it?). This is all about you and your relevant information. Highlight the things that make you perfect for this job. Your internship, your tutoring in your major classes, related courses and any big academic projects, your thesis- they all count. Just be sure to use good judgment on how relevant they are to the job at hand.

Finally, we get down to the bottom bun. Still, not many people are huge fans, so we’ll keep our closing paragraph short and sweet, too. Let them know you look forward to talking more with them and you’ll be in touch with them again in the near future. Encourage them to reach out to you with questions and to set up an interview. And of course, thank them for their consideration.

How’s that for an unconventional burger? What tips do you have for writing a cover letter?