Q: Every time I apply for a job I struggle with the cover letter. What are they looking for? How do I get the information they need across without putting everyone who reads it to sleep?
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A: The golden rule of writing cover letters is this: don’t just repeat your resume. The hiring manager has that too. They’ve asked for a cover letter so you can add to that information and give them a better idea of who you are and what you can do for them.
Review the job listing you’re applying for very carefully and visualize yourself in that role. Now explain in the letter how your strengths and experience would be a benefit to your potential employer. Will you be answering phones? Talk about your public speaking skills or tutoring office hours. Will you be assisting somewhere technical? Talk about your passion for puzzles or having the highest score in your advanced algebra class.
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The point of a cover letter is to spell out for whoever is hiring why you’re the person that they need. Just visualize drawing lines that connect your resume to their call for applicants and go from there! That’s what will keep a hiring manager reading. Don’t try to liven up your cover letter by methods that could make you seem like you’re not serious, i.e. be careful with casual language and jokes. Be descriptive, but professional. And by all means, don’t worry about filling a whole page if you’re finished 3/4 of the way down. Filler is boring. Your qualifications are not.
If you need advice, ask your question in the comments, and it may be featured in an upcoming column.