When you apply for a job, employers will almost always ask you to submit two vital documents: Curriculum Vitae (CV) and a cover letter.
Your CV, or resume, is a listing of applicable and important experiences and accomplishments that demonstrate to the employer that you have the skills and qualifications to be successful in this position.
Put your name at the top so it stands out. The contact information must include your current email address, phone number, and mailing address.
As a college student, your education should be the first section. Include the name of your university, its location, the month and year you anticipate graduating, the degree you are studying for, and your major or intended major.
This is usually the most important part! Show the employer that you have the skillset to be successful in this job. List jobs, volunteer positions, internships, and other activities—formal and informal—that have given you the skills to do this job.
This is an optional section in which you can include other activities you have engaged in that demonstrate your interest in and commitment to this job or field. For example, if you are applying for a paralegal job, and you were a member of a pre-law society, you can list that here.
Time to brag! This is where you show them how other people have recognized you for being exceptional or outstanding in some way. It’s particularly helpful and important to list those awards and honors that are relevant to the position you are applying for.
This is another optional section. Use it for two main reasons: to convey that you have specific skills and abilities that are needed for this job; and to tell them something interesting about you that might show them a different side of you.
With a CV, you have told a prospective employer what you have done. Now you need to write a cover letter to argue why that matters.
The biggest mistake we see students make in their cover letter is treating it just as a prose version of their CV: “I went to college at NYU Abu Dhabi, and I took some classes, and that led to an interest in this field, and then I had an internship, and then I did some research, and now I want to work for your company.”
That doesn’t tell the reader anything they don’t already know about you from your CV, and misses the opportunity to make the case as to why you should be hired for this position.
When you are writing your cover letter, imagine that you are handing your CV to the person hiring for the job, and you have less than a minute to present two to three reasons why they should hire you. What would you say? That’s what you should write about in your cover letter.
Before you start writing your cover letter, read the job description carefully, understand what skills and experiences they are looking for, and think of two to three times when you have demonstrated those skills or gained those experiences. Then tell those stories in your cover letter.
This also means you should have a different cover letter for each job you are applying for, tailored to the job and skillset that they need.
Address your letter to a specific person. Do your research on LinkedIn, call the HR department (if that is allowed in the job description), or ask colleagues who work at that company for the name of the person who is leading the search. Use the same header as you used on your CV, with your name and contact information.
The first paragraph should do three things:
With two to three body paragraphs, make the case for hiring you by telling stories. People love to hear anecdotes: they provide evidence for the assertions you are making, they are interesting, they make you stand out from everyone else, and they are memorable. You have to tell these stories very briefly, but you can do so by following a very clear formula:
Here's what I did.
Here's what I learned from that experience.
Here's how I can use that skill or experience to do this job for you.
Conclude your letter with a thank you, reiterate how excited you are about this position, and note that you look forward to discussing your qualifications in an interview. Sign off with an appropriate valediction, such as “Sincerely,” followed by a space for your signature (hand-signed and scanned at high-quality, or insert your signature electronically).