1. What is a cover letter?
In the professional world, a cover letter is a one-page document sent along with your resume explaining and expanding upon your interest in and qualifications for the position you want to apply for. For example, if your resume mentioned winning first place in the National Football Championship, you may use part of your cover letter explaining why the experience is significant to your personal growth and how it is relevant to the position you’re applying for. Most companies require a cover letter, but some make it optional.
Whether a cover letter is required or not, submitting one along with your resume will always put you ahead in the job application process. A tip that we always mention to students is that when you read the job description, the job posting and title will give you valuable information about the specific skills and qualifications that potential employers are seeking. This knowledge can be used to customize your cover letter and make it more tailored to the job requirements.
Furthermore, customizing your cover letter to align with the job posting demonstrates your attention to detail and genuine interest in the position. It shows potential employers that you have taken the time to understand their specific needs and that you are motivated to contribute to their organization.
2. What should be included in cover letters?
There are three main sections students should include in their cover letters:
Personal information and employer information
To address a cover letter, you should include the recipient’s contact information and a formal salutation. Here’s a example of how students can address a cover letter:
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone #
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Mr. /Ms. Last Name (or Dear Hiring Manager),
The opening paragraph should be where you introduce yourself, describe your interest and excitement for the position and the company, as well as how their mission aligns with your career goals and values. Personalize it further by adding keywords related to the position. The overall length of this opening paragraph should not exceed 500 characters.
The body paragraphs should provide your qualifications: work experience, awards, recognitions, and/or skills; these examples should support your personal development and your dedication to the company’s values. Many students use bullet points or numbers to highlight their most relevant achievements; this method works well because hiring managers can quickly skim through your cover letter to understand your contributions and capabilities. This body paragraph can have up to two paragraphs discussing your experience. However, if you feel that you need more space to discuss your qualifications because the job you are applying for is a specialized position requiring specified knowledge and skills, you can extend it to up to three paragraphs, but no more. Generally, hiring managers spend only a minute or two scanning through your cover letter; thus, the longer it is, the less effective your message becomes.
Examples of experience you could mention: Relevant courses; extracurricular activities like volunteering, clubs, sports, or art; school projects; personal and professional achievements.
Question: What if you have no prior working experience because you are a high school student?
Despite limited working experience, high school students can bring valuable skills and school experience to the workforce. Some relevant experiences you may want to focus on in your cover letter are any awards you have received, how you have prepared for competitions (struggles/hardship/challenges or team effort/team challenges), or activities where your leadership has been recognized, such as being a team captain or class president. Some skills that may be relevant to mention are: time management, organization, research, critical thinking, etc.
Another example can be your club/extracurricular activities where you are involved in the decision-making process and determine the growth direction of the club. Some relevant skills are: entrepreneurship, leadership, presentation, teamwork, interpersonal skills, etc.
The closing paragraph is where you should restate your interest in the position and company, and why you are the right fit for the position. You can also mention your contact information (email and phone number), so that the hiring manager can contact you with more information and schedule an interview if interested. Keeping it short and sweet is what we normally recommend for students.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Your Typed Name
There are various guides on discussing the correct format of a cover letter. However, we always advise our students to stick with the traditional way of formatting:
- Use industry-standard fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, or Futura
- Ideal font sizes are 11 or 12-point
- The cover letter should fit onto 1 page
- Single-spaced sentences within the paragraph and double spacing between paragraphs
- Save the document as a PDF
- The filename should be your first name, last name, and “Cover Letter.”
3. Generic Cover Letter Examples
Subject: Adam Smith_Marketing Analyst Internship
Mr. Moki Smith
The College Broad
250 Vesey Street
New York, NY 10281
Dear Mr. Smith,
My name is Adam Smith, and I am currently a rising junior at the Phillips Academy. I am writing to express my interest in your Marketing Analyst Internship. I am very excited to apply for this opportunity because it both supports my future career goals, and builds off of my skills and experiences from previous positions, making me an ideal candidate for the job.
Through my character and past performances in different courses and activities, I will be bringing my unique perspectives and passion for marketing to this position. For example, I am a strategic thinker. This is exemplified by a project I conducted in my Business Strategy class, in which I implemented a strategic plan to reposition Kirkland in the water market. Not only did I conduct adequate research to understand the company’s background, but I also developed appropriate messages and engagement programs to target my audience. Then, I applied these lessons in my real life as Vice President of Marketing for the IC Chinese Student Association. Aside from increasing club exposure by marketing to students through different media platforms, I also maintained an excellent long-term relationship with my school’s newspaper as a key marketing vector, and additionally improved public relations.
I am also a fast and enthusiastic learner who always thrives by obtaining new skills, and improving old ones. While working in the Finance Department of my school’s Student Council, I learned how to manage the total budget for various events that we put on, and then distribute funds properly for different expenses. My successful allocation of funds and preparedness for unforeseen expenses made it so that we were able to introduce monthly events, and create an engaged school community.
With the incredible chance to be a part of your company, I’m eager to learn, explore, and grow both personally and professionally through your dedicated and interactive environment. I also believe that the unique option to gain insights and hands-on experience during high school will give me knowledge and confidence to pursue my future career path. In turn, my perspectives as a foreign student, leader in sustainable practice and social relations, and someone passionate about marketing will make me an asset to your team. I’m keen to share and build on my innovative ideas about the future of marketing and marketing analysis.
Thank you so much for taking the time to review my application; I would love the chance to discuss my candidacy further. Please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com with any questions or to set up an interview! I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Subject: Part-Time Position – Gerald Applicant
Dear Ms. Lee,
My name is Gerald Applicant, and I am interested in your part-time sales associate position at XYZ Company. The mission of XYZ Company aligns directly with my personal values, and I would love the opportunity to work with such a dedicated team! My prior work experience in sales has given me exceptional communication skills and fabulous attention to detail, which among other qualities, make me an ideal candidate for this position.
As I have previously worked at both small boutiques and large department stores, I have extensive retail experience. In these jobs, I was often recognized for my ability to manage clerical duties while simultaneously serving customers with a smile. As such, I was promoted to shift management positions in several of these businesses, where I maintained a high level of order in each store, and other employees rose to expectations by employing a similar level of attention to detail inspired by my example. My co-workers frequently relied on me to solve any issues with customers, which I always did with a mind towards positive conflict resolution, ensuring that each customer left feeling heard and cared for.
I am also known for my strong communication skills. I interact with each client in a friendly, approachable manner. In my last position, I interacted with over 50 clients daily, and still made sure that each one had a positive and noteworthy experience. As a result, I was named Employee of the Month for three months in a row, and was recognized for my contribution to the10% yearly increase in sales in my department.
Along with various practical and technical skills, these qualities will make me an asset to your company. While researching XYZ Company, I was excited to see that your company is extremely dedicated to sustainability, and has been working hard to implement green practices, like utilizing recycled materials for packaging. Additionally, XYZ Company’s commitment to giving back to their community is a value that hits close to home for me. Growing up, I have spend many weekends volunteering at our local soup kitchen, so it makes me very happy to see XYZ’s initiative to donate older food products to the soup kitchen and food bank. I would be proud to promote and represent XYZ Company as a sale’s associate!
I would love an opportunity to meet with you to discuss my qualifications for this position and any other questions that you have for me. I am available every weekday after 3pm, so please feel free to call or email me to set up an interview. I look forward to hearing from you!
It’s a good idea for high school students to practice writing cover letters because it is an essential step in applying for both jobs and internships. Cover letters provide a unique opportunity to stand out from the crowd, give employers insight into your thoughts and values, and highlight skills and accomplishments that you don’t have space for in your resume alone. With some creative thinking and strategic planning, high school students can utilize cover letters to enhance their chances of getting hired. So get started today – you never know what possibilities might await you!
For students who want to have a sample format to fill in, refer to this document that we created for your use. By utilizing cover letter templates, you can structure your letter effectively and ensure that you highlight relevant experiences and achievements.