Lots of people have lots of opinions about cover letters – length, organization, content, etc. But, there’s at least one consensus point: show you know something about the company to which you are writing!
Most students write a ton about themselves, talking about their strengths and why an employer should hire them. Providing this support, in moderation, is good stuff. But more than anything, an employer wants to know how you would contribute value to their business, how you can help them make money. So, you need to show that you understand their business and how they make money.
This only takes two or three thoughtful sentences. Research the company online. Gather big picture information (e.g., specific products/services) as well as specific things (e.g., recent awards, new technology announcements). Weave this together in a very short paragraph that shows passion (“I think your new smart meter cloud technology is incredibly forward-thinking, bridging a gap that did not exist in the market…”; “I studied the core technology in my __ course, but working on a real product would be a dream come true for me…”)
Keep the cover letter short: it should be several paragraphs long and definitely less than one page (1/2 page is fine). Talk as much if not more about the company and job role as you do about yourself. Show that you are passionate about THAT specific company. And when you talk about yourself, show how it relates to the company, for example: “my summer internship project management role helped me develop advanced Excel skills that would permit me to be a valuable asset in the __ team.”
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