In addition to a portfolio, many places will ask that you provide a cover letter to explain why you are interested in working for their organization. This letter is your first impression, so you need to wow the selection committee with your words.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your cover letter:
HAVE A HOOK
Like any academic or creative paper, you need to have a hook that makes you stand out from the rest of the applicants. It doesn’t need to be something extravagant or obscure — just something memorable. Whether this is an anecdote about a time you solved a problem or statements about why you are passionate about journalism/PR/whatever field, keep it short. You don’t want to have it take up too much of your letter when you still need to talk about other important things in your letter, such as…
REFERENCE THEIR REQUIREMENTS
When applying for any job or internship, the people there want to know how you can benefit them. They want be sure that you can fulfill the job requirements they ask of you, and that you’ll do it better than any of the other candidates for the job. Make sure you look at the job description and reference any specific skills you have that would make you the best person to handle the job. If the job requires working on tight deadlines, be sure to describe how you have dealt with deadlines in the past and would handle them at their company. If the job requires working with editors from various sections, be sure to mention times that you’ve worked in groups and how you tend to function in them.
HIGHLIGHT YOUR QUALIFICATIONS
Also be sure to highlight your best skills. At a place like a newspaper or PR firm, most people applying will probably say they are excellent writers, but you can stand out by talking about what kinds of writing you’ve done — have you worked for a professional paper? Do you have experience writing different kinds of stories, like news, sports and features? Have you had a beat? Make sure to mention other important skills, too, like time management, communication and collaboration. It’s also beneficial to mention any programs skills you may have, like working with InDesign, Illustrator, Python or WordPress.
EXPRESS YOUR INTEREST
The people reviewing your application for this internship want to know that you’re interested in the job and why. Make sure you’ve done your research and can talk about why you agree with their mission and are committed to helping the organization move forward.
KEEP IT ONE PAGE IN LENGTH
A cover letter serves as a brief introduction to yourself, your qualifications and why the organization should select you for the job. They don’t want to read a two-page paper about what you can do for the company. Keep your paragraphs brief and don’t go over a page in length. That’s including your header, greeting, body, conclusion and salutation.
USE PROFESSIONAL LANGUAGE AND SPELL CHECK!
Nothing is more embarrassing than sending a cover letter and realizing that you’ve made simple spelling or grammar errors. Before sending your letter off, be sure to have another person read it. A fresh pair of eyes can catch mistakes that you’ve overlooked after working on the same letter for so long. Also, be sure to use professional language and know who you are addressing. Don’t use any messaging shorthand or emojis; your cover letter needs to exemplify your professionalism.
WHEN SENDING AN EMAIL
If you are submitting your application online via email, set up your email similarly to how you wrote your cover letter. Be sure to fill out the subject line with your name and what you are applying for (or follow the guidelines set out by the application instructions). Use professional language and include some of the same elements you have in your cover letter. This should be an abbreviated version of your cover letter, though, so keep it to one or two short paragraphs about why you are interested in the job and mention that you’ve attached your cover letter which will further explain your qualifications.