If you're past spring break or in the middle of it (or wishing you still had a spring break), and barreling towards the last few months of the school year, it's probably feeling really real right now. Pause. Breathe in. Breathe out. This week we're talking cover letters to strengthen your first impression and help line something up for the summer, whether it's your first/next job or an internship. I reached out to a half dozen hiring managers and recruiters from the industry to get their opinion on what makes a strong cover letter.
First off, the overwhelming consensus is that cover letters are now intro emails. PDF attachments of long form letters with your mailing address in the top left-hand corner? Not necessary. They're time consuming to open and read, and with almost all communication happening over email, why continue to use a relic from a time when people printed and sent their stuff via snail mail? Lose the cover letter and focus on the intro email with your resume attached and portfolio linked.
Tailor each one. Leverage what you know about the agency through the job description, the work they do (get deep into their case studies), and what they value (if not explicit on the website, dig into their social channels or blog for clues). Make your intro specific to the agency—tie your experiences and strengths to the specific skills/role they're looking for. Do away with Sirs or Madams, or To Whom It May Concerns, and address it to a person—or at least to, "The team at [agency name]."
Demonstrate that you understand the audience—the audience being whomever's making decisions about hiring at the agency. Through your explanation of why you'd be a great fit, does it show understanding of the agency's work, people and culture? And it's not just what you say, but how you say it. Does the tone of your email fit the way the agency expresses itself?
Make sure your personality and enthusiasm come through. Reread your intro email and ask yourself, could anyone have written it? If so, find ways to inject more of you into it.
Lastly, emails are meant to be brief—no one wants to read a lengthy email, especially with hundreds in their inbox. While you no longer have to write a whole letter, the challenge is making someone want to know more in a handful of sentences. Include a bit of background (save your entire story/experience for your resume), and the reason you're reaching out (interested in an open role or informational interview). Then make the meat of your email why you and what the agency's looking for sync up. There's no exact number, but 5-7 sentences should do the trick. Let your resume and portfolio do most of the talking for you.
Be specific, be brief, be you. Easier said than done, but the upfront effort will go a long way in getting you in the door for an interview. If you feel overwhelmed, remember that you're just writing an email to another human. You got this.