Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Writing a Cover Letter? Here’s Why You Should Avoid Google

As a Writing Center Consultant at Babson College, I proofread a wide variety of writing pieces: analytical essays, fiction works, and professional assets—resumes and cover letters. Recently, I have been working with many of these professional assets (specifically cover letters), and I am noticing that college students are missing the mark. Often, students are simply Googling a cover letter template, and they are essentially “plugging and chugging” their information into these templates. While this process is easier, students are missing out on an opportunity to differentiate themselves with a well-written document that showcases their voice and personality. As a consultant, my job is to challenge their preconceived notions of cover letters so that the students can produce better content.

Here are my five tips that I offer to college students who are crafting their cover letters:

1) Don’t Restate Your Name: this may seem minute, but this takes away space: space that is crucial due to the universally accepted one page restriction. A recruiter can easily gain this information from a properly formatted header (note: typically the header is consistent between the cover letter and resume).

2) Avoid a Dry Entry: students are often hesitant to add creative elements to their cover letters because they believe the fallacy that cover letters should be rigid and formal. However, this is a grave mistake as a cover letter can double as a writing sample: candidates can use a cover letter to showcase their writing capabilities. Do not be afraid to add some creative elements because these techniques can make your cover letter both unique and memorable.

Dry Entry: My name is Timothy James Curley, and I am a sophomore at Babson College who is interested in working in the sport’s industry.

Engaging Entry: My childhood days were spent playing baseball late into the summer nights and football upon a fresh blanket of snow. Engagement in sports is an integral part of my identity, and this core belief creates a desire to work in the sports industry.

3) Incorporate Company Values: most students will incorporate values and ideas of a company into a cover letter, but many often wait until the final paragraph, which does not fully maximize the effectiveness. These elements should be incorporated into the entire letter. Before sculpting a cover letter, students should research the company’s mission statement, values, and pillars, which can typically be found on the company’s history page. Once these elements are identified, students should select the values and ideas that resonate with them and incorporate them into the text.

Incorporated Mission: Fueling my passions and channeling my existing skills, I am wholly confident that I can assist in Vineyard Vine’s mission of ensuring that every customer’s day should feel this good—a focus on quality products and personal service.

4) Refrain from Listing: above all, this is the most important tip that I can offer to students. Candidates should not take their resumes and translate them into paragraph format—essentially listing their resume points. This is a shortsighted mistake because the students might be saving time, yet they are missing out an opportunity to showcase additional information, which could help strengthen their candidacy. An effective cover letter paragraph should focus on a particular work experience and showcase a specific skill. Students can formulate these paragraphs using the STAR framework—Situation, Task, Action, and Result—for a specific experience. This framework allows students to fully analyze an experience and extrapolate pertinent skills. Moreover, this format creates a narrative.

STAR Framework: Through the concentration course, A Case Studies in Business Analytics, I engaged in a collaborative assignment to create an accurate statistical model to predict bond prices. Initially, I streamlined the data that was collected from various resources to attain a viable testing set. This required database research and imperative predictor identification. After this comprehensive step, I generated models using two forms of statistical software: R-Studio and XLMiner. The three statistical models that I employed to find an optimal model were K-Nearest Neighbors, Multiple Linear Regression, and Regression Trees. Through over twenty iterations, I created an optimal model that fostered a .98% error that equated to an RMSE of $1.012—the predicted price would circumvent the actual price by a maximum of $1.01.This modeling endeavor detailed the extensive preparation needed to perform data analytics, and this experience augmented the theoretical frameworks of supervised learning that were explored in class.

5) Don’t Forget About Yourself: through a cover letter, students make the argument that they are a viable candidate for a position based on their existing skillset. Moreover, students stress the value that they can add to the company. However, students often forget to mention the benefits that they would receive from working at this company. Overall, a job is created so that an individual can create value for a company, but a job is also created so that an individual can grow, develop, and learn. A student’s eagerness to learn is an invaluable trait that recruiters look for in applicants; therefore, students should find a way to highlight the benefits they would receive from the employer.

Bringing in you: Recognizing the synergistic relationship between financial and statistical endeavors, I conceive this position as a means to delve into the next competency of my professional development: a focus on finances and data analytics. Furthermore, I hope to gain invaluable knowledge from the extensive mentorship program offered to interns.

Collectively, these five tips can help college students—or any working professionals—improve their cover letters so that their likelihood of landing a job is increased. Overall, I encourage you to not forget the power of a cover letter as you embark on your next career search!