By Ross Wade, Elon School of COMM Career Guy
Ohhhh…I can smell it in the air and see it on my calendar. My students have caught “job search fever” and they are on me like white on rice asking for career help. The iMedia program has done a good job of preparing students for jobs in a variety of media fields, students have created content for reels and portfolios, students have acquired real world experience via internships or class/client partnerships and they have even created clever personal logos for their resumes. So what specific self-marketing piece is stressing students out the most? Cover letters. It seems basic cover letters have a kyrptonite-like affect on my iMedia career super heroes.
I get it. Cover letters can seem daunting, but they really aren’t (for reals!). If you can compose a strong cover letter you will be ahead of many other applicants using the same sad little template for each job they apply for.
The secret? CUSTOMIZATION! Each cover letter should be customized to the job in which you intend to apply. Review the job ad carefully. Note skills and experiences the company is seeking. Notice the language they use. Think strategically.
Cover letters are business letters consisting of about three paragraphs:
Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself, state the position for which you are applying and how you discovered the job (feel free drop names of existing employees or company leaders that can serve as a reference) and show the company you are very familiar with them and that you have done your research. Let them know you are a fan! Show them you are familiar with their clients, products, awards and recognition, current news, etc. This research piece makes a very positive impact on employers – they like to see you have done your homework on them.
Paragraph 2: List two to three experiences that make you a good fit for the job. Be sure these experiences directly reflect the skills and experiences the employer is looking for. Be sure to “speak in their language”…if the job ad states “strong ability to create social media marketing strategies”, be sure you use that language in your cover letter. Many times HR offices put cover letters and resumes through algorithms, and if certain words are not found your cover letter never makes past phase one.
Paragraph 3: This is the closer. Thank them for their time, remind them you are a good fit and let them know you will be following up in a couple of weeks to make sure they received your application materials. Don’t have a contact to follow up with? Call the HR office and find someone. Don’t be scared. I promise the HR rep won’t curse you out or put a hex on your resume.
Remember, cover letters should supplement your resume, not restate it in paragraph form.
See. It’s not so bad. No need to freak out. It’s not kryptonite…it’s just a cover letter.