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What a cover letter is: A cover letter is a personal, formal introduction. Think of it
as a first impressionand the only chance you get to separate
yourself from all the other students applying for internships.
Cover letters are critical to the hiring process. Many employers
will not even look at resumes that arent accompanied by letters.
What a cover letter isnt: A cover letter is not a reiteration of your resume. ts not a
boring, bland, meaningless document, and it should not read like
anyone elses cover letter.
Do follow standard bsiness letter for!at. There are two widely accepted formats for business
letters! flush"left #all te$t aligned with left margin, spaces between paragraphs, no indents on
paragraphs, senders address flush left with signature% and indented paragraph style #recipients
address and senders address in signature tabbed to center& all other te$t flush left, with indents on
paragraphs but no line spaces between paragraphs%. 'ollow one of these standard styles, but dont
blend them together.
Do se a "ersonali#ed $reetin$% (riting )To (hom t May Concern* at the top of your letter
basically says )+ey, m Too ,a-y to ,earn .our /ame.* 0se courtesy titles and last names. And
for heavens sake, spell peoples names correctly.
Dont se stiff& stilted or "assive lan$a$e. Avoid being stuffy or unnaturally formal in your
letter. )t is with great interest that am applying for1,* )(ith this letter, would like to e$press
my interest1.* nstead, use an active voice. ) am writing to e$press my interest in a summer
editorial internship position with Cincinnati Maga-ine.*
Do clearl' e("ress 'or interest in the "osition or internshi"% (hile this doesnt necessarily
have to be the first line of your letter #see the ne$t tip about avoiding boring first lines%, it should
appear relatively early in your letter, so your intent in writing this letter is clear.
Dont lose 'or reader with 'or first sentence% 2emember all the time weve spent in
3ournalism classes talking about the importance of leads in stories4 The same theory applies in
everything you write for the rest of your life. f your opening sentence is drab, predictable or
lame, its a ma3or turn"off, and it may prevent a person from reading the rest of your letter. This
doesnt mean you need to shock the reader or open with a cheesy 3oke. 5ut consider focusing
on a really compelling, personal detail that sums up why you are a great fit for this opportunity.
#+eres an e$ample of a cover letter could write if applied for an internship at /ational
6eographic! )7ver since was 8, ve been hoarding back issues of /ational 6eographic. d stay
up after bedtime, secretly reading under my sheets with a flashlight, slowly flipping through the
pages and dreaming about all the faraway places in the world where cultures so different from my
own e$isted. Twenty years later, still have stacks of those yellow"bordered maga-ines tucked
away in my mothers basement, and 3ust cant seem to part with them. n fact, my longtime
fascination with maga-ines, and particularly /ational 6eographic, is what lead me to pursue a
degree in 3ournalism1.* etc.%
Do be h!ble% (hile the goal is to highlight your skills, avoid boasting or grandstanding.
2emember, you need an internship more than an employer needs you, so always keep your ego
in check when dealing with a potential employer.
Do research the "blication or co!"an' and illstrate a $enine interest in the sb)ect
!atter% 9how that youve taken the time to learn something about the publication you hope to
work for, either by referencing specific content or by sharing your interest or e$citement for the
sub3ect matter. :ont fake it. .ou do want to intern at this maga-ine, right4 9o e$plain why. (hat
do you like about the reporting techni;ues, the way the maga-ine communicates with its readers4
(hat columnists do you love to read in this particular newspaper4
Dont be self*absorbed% <=, >ohn '. =ennedy didnt ;uite phrase it like this, but ask not what
your employer can do for you, but what you can do for your employer. :ont fill your cover letter
with all the wonderful benefits youll get out an internship. 2emember your audience! ts an
editor whos thinking, )<=, so know this kid wants to work here. 5ut whats in it for us4*
+ighlight what abilities and characteristics you bring to the table, so an employer recogni-es the
benefits in selecting you as an intern.
Do elaborate on s+ills or acco!"lish!ents that !a' not be fll' a""arent in 'or res!e%
,ets say youve been an editor at The /ews 2ecord for a year. .our resume briefly lists your
responsibilities and accomplishments in that capacity, but your cover letter is where you can share
a specific anecdote or e$ample that illustrates your dedication and commitment to e$cellence.
#nstead of saying, )m dedicated and committed to e$cellence* ?which sounds as bland and
meaningless in your cover letter as it 3ust did herebe specific. (rite about that @A"hour week at
the /ews 2ecord when you painstakingly obsessed over an innovative enterprise package that
included four hard"hitting articles about recent administrative shortcomings, two of which you
wrote yourself.%
Dont be $eneric or bland% (hy even write a letter if youre not going to put some real energy
into it4 f you plan on writing a cover letter that copycats one you saw as an e$ample on, dont even bother applying for an internship. .oure a writer, right4 9o you should
be able to write a compelling, personali-ed and perhaps even persuasive letter about yourself.
Do be s"ecific. 6ive e$amplesspecific, personal, concrete e$amplesas often as you can in
your cover letter. #9ound familiar4 (e talk about this all the time when youre writing articles for
publication.%. f you write that youre focused, hard"working, entrepreneurial, a great collaborator,
etc., give specific e$amples to illustrate these skills. Concrete details are always more compelling
and credible than generali-ations.
Dont se attention*$ettin$ "lo's to stand ot% Colored paper, sparkles and a picture of you and
your knickknack collection may make you stand out, but in a bad way. 9tand out by writing a
compelling, engaging cover letter and presenting your skills and accomplishments in a
professional, clean format in your resume.
Do be "rofessional% :ont litter your letter with smiley"face or winky emoticons. :ont use
e$clamation points, which are a telltale sign of an amateur writer. :ont threaten or plead with
your reader, and dont include any inappropriate or sketchy details.
Do show conviction and "assion% 7nthusiasm is palpable, and youre a far more promising
candidate for a 3ob if you can demonstrate an energetic, genuine interest in the position. This
doesnt mean using lots of e$clamation points or making stuff up, but it does mean writing with
conviction and passion.