Cover Letters in a Casual, Digital World

April 6, 2010

As intern coordinator, I love spring and with it the influx of resumes and cover letters from summer intern candidates. Notice that I said “cover letter.” In this fast-paced, digital environment, some may consider the cover letter a relic of a bygone era. Not me.

When evaluating a seemingly endless flow of potential candidates, I look not only for resumes that stand out from the rest, but also for thoughtful, clever and personal cover letters that explain a person’s motivation and desired result. Regardless of how a cover letter gets in my hands, I look for the following and recommend that people seeking an agency internship take this to heart:

  • If you know someone who knows us, tell us. Networking is very important and effective. If you know someone we know, tell us first thing. It will get our attention.
  • Be clever and attention-grabbing. About 90 percent of incoming cover letters use that precious first line to tell us that they found our Web site or saw us on Monster. Give thought to your lead, especially when seeking a position in PR. Think outside the box and give us something that will make us perk up and take notice of you.
  • Explain your skills and attributes. There’s no need to reiterate what’s in your resume. Tell us something different that you feel really sets you apart.
  • Consider your audience. We are professionals who operate in a business environment. While informal communications have grown in acceptance, you should be as professional as possible when seeking a position. We still value properly written letters, including the date, greetings and salutations.
  • Choose a format. You can either write your cover letter in the body of the e-mail or attach it. But don’t do both. If attaching, keep the intro e-mail brief so that we can focus on the letter and the resume.
  • Proofread. We have an agency policy that all written work must be proofread by two sets of eyes. Use this same method of checks and balances in your resumes. Do not rely on spell check. We are human, and we make mistakes, but cover letters and resumes are no places for mistakes!

As you work on your letter, think about why you really want the job. If you can’t articulate why or think of much to say, you may wish to rethink your application. The best candidates are those who are as motivated to have the job as we are to hire them. Good luck!