Importance of a Cover Letter
The cover letter works in tandem with your resume and serves as an introduction to a prospective employer. It is a chance to share your interest in joining them and your most compelling stories and experiences in an effort to achieve the next step in the process, a job interview. When a cover letter is required* it can be sent as a PDF for a web-based application or typed as a message in an email application. (*Some employers do not want a cover letter so if it is not requested, don’t send one.)
Never duplicate a cover letter for multiple applications, instead, conduct research on the company, products and news. Show you care and personalize your cover letters for each application by highlighting your most relevant skills and experience.
How to Begin
If you could only share 2 or 3 specific reasons why you are the ideal candidate, what would you say? The answer to this question is the basis of an effective cover letter.
First Paragraph - The Introduction
Explain who you are and the specific job title you’re applying for. If you’re a student, state your department, year in school and spell out RISD’s name. Optional: If you have any connections to their internal staff, this would be a great time to mention the name and how you know the person.
Second to Third Paragraph – The Pitch
This is your chance to make the reader’s job easier by connecting the dots between the company and yourself. Share your passion and enthusiasm for their work and give them praise with specific examples. Draw connections to your own work and skills while defending your specific abilities to fulfill the requirements of their job description, with examples from your academic or professional experience. Share brief stories of how you utilized the skills they need in studio, internships and/or past jobs.
Last Paragraph – The Valediction
Close your letter on a positive note restating your enthusiasm for the role and offering your availability for an interview. You do not need to list any contact info in this paragraph as it should already be available in your header or closing signature.
A good length for a cover letter is 3-4 paragraphs and less than one full page. Remember that the goal of a cover letter is to earn an interview, not to tell your life story.