With off-campus employment opportunities for international students, many students will be applying for jobs in their new host countries. Many international students may need a reminder of both the importance of writing a cover letter to accompany a resume and application, as well as how to write an effective cover letter.
Why Write a Cover Letter at all?
Most hiring managers agree that including a cover letter is as important a part of an application resume. However, it isn’t important to write a cover letter because the hiring manager is going to carefully read it—in fact, many will admit to “just browsing” them or, in many cases, not reading them at all—but because hiring managers often DO remember those applicants who didn’t bother to take the time and include a cover letter.
In a situation where someone is looking for easy ways to reduce the amount of similarly qualified applicants to look through, the people who didn’t care enough to put forward the effort are an easy choice when faced with a number of applicants who took the time to craft an individualized cover letter.
Features of a Good Cover Letter
That being said, a cover letter should not be a resume or a condensed version thereof. A good cover letter requires a bit of research and should fit the following guidelines:
- Write directly to the hiring manager overseeing filling the desired position. No “To Whom it May Concern”—do your research and personalize your letter. After all, this is the person making the decision to hire you or not.
- Show that you are passionate about working with this particular company. But don’t do so in a way that comes off as flattery. Demonstrate you didn’t just send out 1,000 resumes to whatever company. You chose a company where you felt you could make a difference, whose vision and practices you stand behind, and that you would be proud to work for.
- If you have a name to drop, this is the place to do it. Whether it is someone you know in the company, a mutual acquaintance, or a mutual contact in the broader industry, the cover letter is the place to mention it.
- Avoid re-hashing your resume or writing a ‘form letter’ style cover letter. Only list accomplishments that are directly relevant to the position or the company’s projects, and make sure to make the letter individualized enough so that the hiring manager doesn’t feel as if they just wasted their time reading the same generic letter attached to your resume you sent to every company.
- Be brief. Certainly no more than a page, though, the consensus seems that even less than a page is the most ideal.
Take the time to set yourself apart from the mob of similarly qualified applicants and include a well-written cover letter—it will really go a long way!