Cover Letter Catastrophe: 7 Do's and Don'ts

By Megan Weyrauch on April 8, 2013

As you apply for yet another internship, you open up your Microsoft Word document containing your standard cover letter template. You change the date, address, and name used in the salutation, and replace the name of the last company you applied to with the new one.  Satisfied, you attach your cover letter to your resume and into the mail it goes. The process took you about five minutes to complete.

A few weeks later and you have still heard nothing from the company you applied to. Why? Probably because you spent as much time on your cover letter as you would eating a sandwich.

Whether you have never written a cover letter or have composed hundreds, here are seven do’s and don’ts of cover letter writing:

Don’ts

1. Do NOT use the same cover letter to apply to every internship or job that interests you.

Believe it or not, employers are smart; they can tell when you are sending out your general cover letter to multiple employers.

2. Do NOT spend the entire cover letter talking about Y-O-U.

Yes, the cover letter serves to explain why you fit this particular job or internship. However, employers also appreciate some explanation as to why you want to work with their company. Have you had prior experience working with a similar company? Do you share their values? Incorporate a paragraph to make a personal connection to this particular company. If you are only applying because you “need” an internship, they can tell!

3. Do NOT ask what this company can do for you, but what you can do for this company.

While it is acceptable to talk about why this internship or job will benefit you, take a few sentences to talk about how you as a candidate will benefit the company. Are your marketing skills just what this company needs to make a new name in the world? Can your leadership skills be what this start-up organization needs to succeed?  Demonstrating why the company needs you is more important than talking about why you need the company.

Do’s

1. Do create a unique cover letter for each position you apply to.

Demonstrating a personal connection to a company and explaining why you want to work for them specifically goes a long way in terms of making you stand out.

2. Do include your contact information in your final paragraph.

It is important to include an email and phone number in your cover letter. Regardless of whether or not your cover letter will be attached to your resume (which should also include this information), you have to consider the possibility that these two documents could be separated.

3. Do spend more than five minutes writing your cover letter.

The more effort you put into writing your cover letter, the stronger a candidate you become. If you take the time to create a strong and personal cover letter, you will stand out among other candidates as someone who truly cares about the company. Also, make sure to take some time to edit your letter; there is no excuse for grammatical errors in a professional setting.

4. Do keep your cover letter brief.

Try to keep your cover letter to 1 page; employers are reading through stacks of cover letters and they do not have the time to read pages and pages from one candidate.

Follow these seven do’s and don’ts to avoid a cover letter catastrophe!

Hello! I am currently serving as the Director of News/Managing Editor for Uloop News. I recruit writers, edit many articles, manage interns, and lead our National Team. When I'm not writing or editing, I love to take part in community theater, read, and enjoy the outdoors with my husband Kevin. I have a Bachelor's degree in English and Professional Writing from Ohio State University and an M.Ed. in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Wright State University. If you ever have questions or just want to chat, email me at megan@uloop.com.

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