A compelling cover letter can be the gateway to getting the job interview. Remember, a cover letter is often a future employer’s first introduction to you as a person and an employee. It will often become the first impression that they retain and be critical in their decision of whether or not to invite you to interview with them.
Review the checklist below to assess whether your cover letter is up to snuff.
1. Is your cover letter less than half a page with 11-12 point serif font and one inch margins?
- If your answer is yes, great. Move to the next step.
- If your answer is no, look at the guidance below and work on editing it down. Do not try to cheat by adjusting font size and margins – this will take real editing of the words on the page.
2. Is my cover letter addressed to a real human being?
- If your answer is yes, great. Move to the next step.
- If your answer is no, then do your research to find an appropriate point of contact. If you absolutely can’t find a name, move into the body of the letter rather than including “To Whom it May Concern” as your salutation. That phrase will make you look like an amateur. If your answer is yes, great. If applicable, state your connection to this person in your opening paragraph.
3. Does my opening paragraph…
Include what appeals to you about the opportunity?
Grab their interest?
Show that you have done your homework?
State why you think this position is a good fit?
If you cannot answer with a strong and bold “yes” to each of these, take a moment to revisit what you have written using the tips below.
- The first sentence should say who you are, the job you are pursuing, why you are excited about it, and how you heard about it.
- The next sentence should highlight the most relevant skills and experience from your resume that make you great candidate for this position. Do not overdo it and restate everything that is on your resume. If they like your cover letter, they will read your resume with interest.
- Convey a sense of excitement about the position and company. The reader will be able to sense if you have done your research on the company. Share why you are interested in the job and demonstrate your understanding of what the company does. Then make clear why you are a good fit for the position and the company.
- Use your own voice. Do not use words and phrases that you would never use during a conversation. This one pager should be professional and sound like you.
4. Does your letter end with a call to action – asking for an interview?
- If yes, great. Move on.
- If no, fix it. The whole point of the cover letter is to secure an invitation for an interview. If you do not ask for it, you will not get it. Consider one of two techniques:
1) State when you will contact the person in the letter to set up an interview.
2) Make yourself available for them to contact by including your email and phone number. Keep in mind you can still reach out to them after a little time has elapsed.
5. Is your resume…
On good quality paper?
In a readable font?
In standard business format?
Free of typos and grammatical errors?
Signed with a good quality pen?
If you answered “no” to any of the above, fix it.
- Even if the content of the cover letter is perfect, you can ruin your chances by using poor quality paper, a hard-to-read font, sloppy formatting, or a signature with ink blots or dried out ink.
- It is okay to have the cover letter reflect the true you, but do not use neon green paper and a calligraphy font. Let your personality come out in your words not the visual aspects of your cover letter. You can never go wrong with neutral colored paper and standard fonts.
- No matter what, proofread your cover letter more than once and consider having someone else look at it with fresh eyes. There is no excuse for a typo.
Download this activity as a worksheet
Sample cover letter for Full Time position at PricewaterhouseCoopers
Entry Level position in Deals
To whom it may concern
I am Name, currently a senior majoring in Economics at University. I am confident that my professional experiences, skills and academic background are complimentary to the entry level position in deals at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
I have always been intrigued by processes that are involved in the workings of the global capital markets and working at PWC would prove to be a great opportunity to delve further in to that interest and see how companies make decisions regarding investments and potential risks.
I am a goal oriented and highly self-motivated individual striving to mark my name in the world of finance. As an enthusiastic and fast paced learner with a proven ability to find alternative solutions and meet deadlines, I welcome challenges and tackle them with austerity and firmness and strive till I find solutions to the tasks I had set foot to.
PWC great places emphasis on diversity to meet objectives and works with a truly global team consisting of individuals from a wide array of backgrounds and cultures. I believe that having been a member of AISEC (International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences), I have been able to develop strong networking skills which have enabled me to build and sustain pleasant relationships with friends and teachers alike all across the globe. Moreover, X-culture project for the course International Business, has given me the practical experience of working in a global virtual team with members residing in countries ranging from USA to Russia to Germany and a better understanding of the challenges and issues faced by international and multinational companies working in different time zones. Given my networking abilities, effective communication skills, interactive personality and well rounded experience of working within a team setting I believe I would be a good fit for PWC.
Having studied courses such as Economics of Investment and Finance, Econometrics and Advanced Corporate Finance I have developed a strong grounding in the discipline of Finance and Mathematics and the use of Microsoft Excel and Stata have further brushed up analytical and quantitative skills. I have extensive background in conducting research and fieldwork and I possess exceptional presentation skills.
Working as an intern at Bank X in the investment banking department, I gained an in depth knowledge of financial modeling and became proficient in the use of Microsoft excel for formally presenting the financial models. I was able to put these newly acquired skills to practical use while working as the financial analyst for the Start up Y where I was required to build a three year financial model for the company. I believe that given my academic background and professional experience I would make a strong candidate for this job.
An opportunity to work for PWC will enable me to enhance my skill set and broaden my horizons and will not only provide for me an all rounded work experience but also open up for me a plethora of opportunities in all walks of life.
Given my amiable nature, confident personality and remarkable personal and strategic skills, I believe I can be an asset to the firm and can serve as an excellent agent to the prospective clients.
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