Do not underestimate the power of a cover letter. It's an important supporting document which is your opportunity to stand out amongst the crowd.
What's the most common mistake(s) you see on cover letters?
There are a number of traps that students fall into when it comes to writing a cover letter. The most common mistake is when students don’t take the effort to tailor each cover letter to the employer and think that a generic cover letter is good enough. In a well-constructed cover letter, the third paragraph is usually used to highlight knowledge of the company and why a candidate wants to work for them. As an employer, this is a sure-fire way of telling that a cover letter is generic and it’s very easy to spot. A good cover letter cannot be rushed, students and job seekers need to ensure that it matches the employer’s requirements.
What's your number one tip for writing a cover letter that will stand out?
The single most important thing that students can do is make sure that it matches the candidate requirements in the internship specification, and uses the same terminology. That’s the best way to ensure that you’ve read and understood the spec, which is what hiring managers are looking for.
Sometimes there just isn't time to write individually researched and tailored cover letters for every internship. How can an undergrad/grad get around this - are there any shortcuts?
In short – no. If you’re serious about the role you’re applying for, it’s vital that you make time to thoroughly research a company properly and that you tailor your letter closely to the job spec. Make the most of the “About Us” section of the company’s website – it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to find our information on companies mission, values and culture and write it up. You can be sure that someone else applying for the position won’t have taken a shortcut and that means that their application is likely to stand out more than yours. Give yourself the best possible chance and take as much time as you need to write your cover letter in full!
Most people applying for internships have little to no experience working in finance (hence why they need the internship). What can they say or write that will make them sound appealing - or even experienced in some other way?
Highlighting commercial awareness of the financial markets and displaying knowledge of current affairs can help your cover letter stand out. That usually means reading a good financial news outlet – like the Financial Times or the Economist. Forming an opinion/analysis of markets that is unique and in line with the role you are applying for will also help when writing a cover letter. Don’t just read the news – have an opinion on it and consider what it means for your chosen industry. All of these can help you write a compelling cover letter, especially if you lack specific finance experience.
What's the optimum length for a cover letter?
DEFINITELY no more than one page! There are no exceptions to this rule.
What's the best cover letter you've seen and why was it so great?
Simple. It matched the job spec and had no spelling or grammar mistakes!
Read other entries from the 'Career Champion' series here and for further careers and employment advice get in touch with the team here.