Cover letters – Why are they so hard?!?

ShannonEven though I give students advice on cover letters, I felt unprepared when it became my turn to write them. I felt unsure about practically every aspect of my cover letters, which was upsetting, especially considering that:


  1. I’ve done this before. I had no problem writing cover letters when applying for internships in years past, but once the pressure was on to find a full-time, career-starting job, I completely freaked out.
  2. I like to write! I’m sure that the cover letters I’ve submitted so far are not the worst ones employers have ever seen, but I’m applying for positions that involve a lot of writing and marketing, which is essentially what a cover letter is – a written advertisement for yourself! Because of this, I feel as if my cover letter is a sort of audition – if I can’t sell myself, how am I going to sell the company’s product?

This, of course, only added to the pressure that I was already feeling….which I’m starting to think might have been the problem. By getting so anxious about each letter, maybe I was psyching myself out to the point that I was not able to put forth my best work.  Despite all my trepidation, I have learned a few things about cover letters:

  • Do not submit a letter the same day that you write it, no matter how eager you may be to apply for the job. Even if you think a letter is good when you first finish it, it can always be improved later on.
  • Get feedback. In a piece as short as a cover letter, one change here or there can make a big difference, so it’s worth asking for suggestions.
  • Don’t look at your resume when writing a cover letter, so you don’t repeat yourself. I’ve been advised to choose a few highlights from my resume that are the most relevant to the job and elaborate on those.
  • Be relevant — Sending a well-written letter about how fabulous you are and the things you’ve done won’t cut it if they aren’t explicitly related to the job requirements – employers aren’t looking for a cool person to be friends with, they’re looking for the right person for the position.

I feel surprisingly less stressed about writing cover letters now! I guess since I’ve figured out exactly what was frustrating me, I’ve come up with some ways to try to get better at them. Yay!


Shannon will complete her studies as a Mass Communication Master’s student at the University of Delaware in May 2010 and is currently searching for a Marketing position at a college or university. She works as the Marketing & Career Resources Graduate Assistant at UD’s Career Services Center, helping students with their career preparation and creating publications such as newsletters and conference materials. Shannon loves sports (go New York!) and music. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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