So, you're applying for jobs after College. No doubt you've googled "how to write a cover letter" more often than you check your Vingle account. You're frustrated, scared and ultimately asking more questions than can be answered.
Don't worry, I've been there. So I whipped up this post on how to write a kick-ass cover letter that will not only show your personality, but will appeal to your employers on a visceral level, setting you apart from the hundreds, or thousands of other applicants in your way.
First, you must consider your audience.
If you're writing to a hip, young company your style of voice would be different than if you're writing to an established, formal company. This is perhaps the most important part of cover letter writing.
There's a bit more freedom when you're trying to work for an online outfit or something that is aimed at a young demographic. This often varies by profession, but usually with any of the creatives, it's fine to go a bit off the rails.
For formal letters, adhere closely to the accepted format, here's where your googling will help, you can download a template here. These are typically demanded by professions in finance, science, mathematics, education, law and administration. This is just a straight-up generalization, but is usually accurate.
For more free-flow letters you can write with a stylized voice that acknowledges the "fun" involved in the job. Professions like writing, music, non-profit work, theater and many more have less-strict rules and really appreciate when applicants get creative. (See my sample letter at the bottom of the post for an example)
After you've considered your style, you have to put yourself in the potential employer's shoes.
Imagine that you're in the boss' chair. You wouldn't want to read hundreds of dry-ass, boring cover letters all day. You'd probably want something with a bit of humor, that sticks out. It'd probably make your day for someone to do something different.
You should be that different thing! The secret to writing an amazing cover letter is to BE YOURSELF. If you're crass and sarcastic, go there with your writing! If you can't be authentic from the get-go, you won't be happy.
If they don't want you for who you are, you're probably not going to fit in at the company either, and who wants to pretend to be something they're not?
Here is an actual cover letter I sent out to a magazine shortly before my senior year of college.
The name of the magazine and publisher have been withheld:
I'm a recent college graduate and I'm buried in debt. I'd like a salary above the poverty line, with some room for my rent and a comfortable lifestyle.
I don't need much, and I've lived modestly and below the average my whole life, as my father is unemployed and my mother works as a retail manager. I've always made my own way. Salary isn't a deal breaker for me, as I am more hungry for a career than for money. I'm a hard worker, a quick learner and someone who gives everything for what they believe in.
I think I could make a difference at @#$% and provide a perspective that is underrepresented in media. We grow up looking at outlaw writers as warped men or unattainable party girls. To get behind what's happening in the twenty-something sphere, and not just in a "omg these gifs totally get me" kind of way, you need someone who is honest, candid and does attempt to hit standards set by the media. I can be that person. I have nothing to lose, no ties to anywhere.
I've got other offers on the table, but would gladly take a turn at your company over them. Just being honest.
All I have are my ideas, my qualifications and my experiences. I will graduate in 2015 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting and a minor in Journalism from the Scripps School.I'm just trying to get a head start as only God knows where jobs come from these days. I started off as a Journalism major, but was told I couldn't write in an interactive way, and told them to shove it.
I've been in the media world my whole life. My dad, now semi-retired, was an Emmy and Golden Mic award winning journalist for KVOA in Los Angeles, and has reported on OJ, Michael, earthquakes and murders. I was never shielded from these events, and carry his skills along with the ones I developed in school.
If you take a chance on me, a shambolic young woman with some big ideas, then I will work as hard as possible to make them a reality. I love the pieces in your magazine. They're edgy, clear, risky and dangerous.
The world needs more writing like that. I can create that writing.
Thanks for considering me.
You can reach me at &#*$(@)
And you can read my current writing on my blog (duh).
I'm aware that some of it is a little raw, but hey...what can you do?
How did it end you ask?
I was rejected, but that's not the point. I'm proud of this cover letter. Frankly it's one of the best things I've ever written, because it's truthful. It's indicative of my true self. It doesn't matter that I never heard back.
It's a kick-ass cover letter, and now you can write one too!