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July 25, 2008

Writing the Perfect Cover Letter

Artwork for this issue is by cartoonist Misako Rocks. Detective Jermain Vol. 1 is out this September. Check out this and more teen illustrated serials at MisakoRocks.com

As if the job search wasn't hard enough, you have to go and write resumes and cover letters too. That's why for the next three weeks Extra Ink is going to do a Job Search focus. This week? The dreaded cover letter.

Resumes are a lot easier than cover letters. Resumes are just a list of things you've done, plain and simple. Cover letters, on the other hand, not only have to be plain and honest, but it's a great chance to show off your ability to articulate yourself and to prove to your would-be employer that you are different than the pack. So here are some helpful tips to get you started on writing that killer cover letter that will stand out in a crowd.

Step One - Know the Job: It is really important that you read or are familiar with the list of duties that the job requires. You will need to reference them in the body of your cover letter. You will almost always find this information in the ad where you learned about the job. If it's not from an ad, talk to someone either at Human Resources in the company or someone you know who works there. It's very important you know what you're getting yourself into, and that your cover letter reflects this.

Step Two - Formatting: There are rights and wrongs to format. Your cover letter is a representation of you, so if it looks sloppy or careless, they will assume you are the same way. The format should resemble this:

Your Name

Your Address

Your City, State, Zip

Your Telephone Number

Your Email Address


Employer's Name

Employer's Company

Employer's Address

Employer's City, State, Zip

Dear Mr./Mrs./Ms. Employer's Last Name,

Intro Paragraph

Background and Intent Paragraph

Concluding Paragraph


Your Name

You should always leave a space between Sincerely and Your Name so that you can sign your name after you print it out. If it is an email cover letter, don't worry about signing.

Step Three - Intro Paragraph: This is where you briefly (the key to cover letters is brevity, or being brief) state where you found their ad and why you are applying. Always name the position you are applying for. For example:

Dear Ms. White

I saw your ad for an Editorial Intern on TeenInk.com and was incredibly excited to see you had an opening.

Step Four - Background and Intent Paragraph: They have your resume, so don't tell them your life story. Just briefly reference what background experience you have that will be useful to them specifically. Don't hesitate to be plain and say just that either. Also express why you are interested in this position, and why you would be perfect for it. This paragraph should not be more than a few sentences. For example:

Dear Ms. White

I saw your ad for an Editorial Intern on TeenInk.com and was incredibly excited to see you had an opening.

For the past two summers I have tutored English to middle school students, which is not only something I enjoy but has given me a lot of important experience in learning to articulate myself clearly and to work with different kinds of people. Also, as assistant editor of our school's literary magazine, and a staff writer for our newspaper, I am familiar with the types of duties that your internship requires. The position is not only something I am confident I could succeed in, but something I would take pleasure in being a part of.

Step Five - Concluding Paragraph: Tell them you have attached your resume and look forward to hearing from them soon, that you will follow up with them, and thank them. Be brief and respectful. Example:

I have attached my resume for your consideration and I thank you for the opportunity of applying to your Editorial Internship. I will follow up with you in the next couple weeks, and I hope to hear from you soon.

The main goal of a cover letter is to add a bit more personality than your resume can. The resume is just a list. The cover letter is a chance to show them that not only do you have the experience to do this job, you have the confidence and the eagerness to do well in it. But above all, be brief. Long cover letters will be thrown out or disregarded, not because of any ill-will but simply because the people reading them are probably very busy people and have many applicants' cover letters and resumes to read. After reading 10, coming across a long one will be a dreaded chore.

For some added tips and more samples, check out bestcoverletters.com. This site will also help you tailor your cover letter to your specific job position.

Happy applying, and good luck!

Next week, Extra Ink will explore how to write the perfect Resume.

P.S. Call For Submissions: Are you touring colleges this summer? Tell us what you think of them. Did the dorms stink? Were they too small? Was the cafeteria food amazing? Was it in a big city, or in the middle of nowhere? Send us your College Reviews now, and save your peers from the bad choices, and point them in the direction of the good.

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"Detective Jermain" artwork by Misako Rocks. See more illustrations from this great and witty teen cartoonist at www.misakorocks.com.



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