HELP! I've never done a cover letter before! by PGP Director, Sally Phelps



procrastnation.jpgMany students are at home right now sending out lots of applications for summer internships!  One of the common questions we get this time of year is - How Do I Write a Cover Letter?

This is one of those things that scares the "*&^%" out of students, and you really need not be afraid.  The cover letter is targeted directly at the employer, and it illustrates how you and I are a match for each other.  You are looking for ABC, look I have examples of how I've done ABC!  It should be no more than 4 paragraphs, and once you do a couple, they get a whole lot easier. I promise!

Here's a very simple guide to what you need in the cover letter.


1st paragraph - Hi, here's who I am (briefly, rising junior majoring in Mechanical Engineering, no need to say your name again since that is on your resume and will be in your signature...) I heard about your company through XX and I'm really excited about XX position (job or internship, state specific position) and here's WHY. Make a connection between you and their company that will compel them to keep reading (I'm excited about your new product/technology, my roommate worked there last summer and loved it, I have seen that you've been in the news,   etc)


2nd paragraph  - Here's where you want to show them more specifically where your experience/interests and the skills they're looking for CONNECT. The closer the match here, the more they're going to want to talk to you. Don't repeat your resume, but tell them something new or go deeper in an area that establishes this connection. How can you help THEM? This may take two paragraphs, depending on how much experience you have or your year in school.


3rd - Wrap it up. Brief paragraph, something like "I am very excited about the prospect of a summer internship with your company. I think I could add value to your organization with my X, Y and Z. I am best reached by email at XXX OR I will be in your area on these dates, and I hope to hear from you soon!"  Be specific about dates of availability, particularly if you'll be in the vicinity (either home or at school) and are trying to get an in person interview (which of course is always the goal). 


Here is a link to additional cover letter resources  including sample letters (just scroll down to find the samples).


In general, be professional, but don't be afraid to let your personality come through.  One or two exclamation points are ok, but keep them to a minimum.  Good luck!




Sally J. Phelps

Director of Post Graduate Planning

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

Posted in: From Our Staff