EgoJanuary 24, 2013 at 5:00 am

Ego Presents: Cover Letters 101

The semester may have just started, but it’s already time to start making moves for your summer plans. Here’s how to master the art of the cover letter, “personally stating” why you’re the one that a potential employer wants for that (allegedly) glamorous NYC internship.


Do include your contact information, all of it. Make sure it’s updated and typo–free! Don’t be that person they want to hire until they get to or an incorrect area code. They don’t need delivery from that Iowa pizzeria.

Do make it interesting. Honestly, some of your cover letters probably bore even you, or worse, your mom. Employers are going to read like 3245678 of these, so take a fun angle. But don’t write a poem.

Do show your enthusiasm! Or at least your fake enthusiasm! But chill with the exclamation points!

Do be concise. This isn’t a writing seminar, guys. Ain’t nobody got time for a rhetorical outline–esque novella.

Do perfect the humble-brag. Say what you’ve accomplished, but don’t go overboard with how great you are. That club might be “Penn’s only _____,” but is it really “Philadelphia’s premier _____”?


Don’t go overboard with formatting or things you think will look super unique. Pink and scented only works in “Legally Blonde” (Can’t go wrongwith the classic bikini–clad video essay, though).

Don’t duplicate. It may be annoyingly repetitive, but the biggest blunder is drafting a single cover letter and simply switching the company and contact’s name. Not only is it obvious to the employer, but you could also slip up and put the wrong info in it, which is way too Common App–supplement horror–story for anyone’s taste.

Don’t forget to mention why you would be an asset to your hedge fund/fashion magazine/Dunkin’ Donuts of choice. Most Penn kids (or their “occupation counselors”) know how to list their sterling accomplishments in résumé form, but the cover letter is where your voice shines through beyond bullet points. But cool it with the overly descriptive explanation of your “tireless, unyielding, motivational and inspirationally natural work ethic.”

Don’t be desperate. Even if the job is your top choice and you’ll just die without it, calm yourself on the word vomit. It’s okay if you religiously read their newsletter, but don’t tell them your room is plastered with headshots of all twenty Executive Vice Presidents.

Don’t be passive. Tell the employer–to–be you’ll follow up—and then actually do it. It shows your dedication and initiative. If she mentions her sick cat during a phone interview, inquire about the feline’s health. Work those phrases to sing your praises.

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