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Cover letter advice

  1. May 18, 2012 #1
    I need to write a cover letter to apply for a job. I am not much of a writer so I am posting a sample of what I have here. I am looking for advice and suggestions on how to improve it before I send it out. Thank you.

    Dear Hiring Manager,

    I am writing to inquire about a position as Mechanical Engineer at NAME OF COMPANY. My strong communication skills and excellent work ethic would fit in well at a company like NAME OF COMPANY

    My education at NAME OF MY SCHOOL has prepared me well for a career at a modern and innovative company. I am experienced in using software packages such as Microsoft Excel and MATLAB to analyze and interpret experimental data. I also have experience using Pro Engineer and Solid Works for design projects. Throughout my education I have learned how to budget my time between multiple projects and work effectively and efficiently maintaining a GPA of 3.373.

    I feel I could fit in well at your company and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this matter further. Please see my resume for more complete details about my education and employment history. I can be contacted at 555-555-5555 or by email MY EMAIL. Thank you for your time and consideration.


  2. jcsd
  3. May 18, 2012 #2
    If I were writing a cover letter, I would attempt to leave out things like:

    "My strong communication skills and excellent work ethic". Are you your own boss writing a job performance review for yourself? That's what it sounds like.

    You may have strong communication skills, and they may find this important. This is a skill that is pretty much a requirement for any position in a modern company, and so it should not be one of the first things you talk about, as if it distinguishes you. Anyone can claim this type of trait without really needing to prove it. The problem is that this is somewhat of a cliche thing to include, and some hiring managers may come across these same generic statements many times, and so your letter begins to fade into the noise of the other applications. It may give the person reading it a false impression that you are an unoriginal thinker.

    Your cover letter doesn't say anything specific of the kind of work the company does, what you can do for them, or how you fit/want to fit in to their specific work or job listing.

    You can be more creative in the way you transfer personal information about yourself, such as having strong communications skills, without sounding like everyone else, as long as you can do it tactfully and professionally.
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  4. May 18, 2012 #3
    Nobody who gets your letter wants to waste time reading boiler plate. They throw that in the trash without reading it. They want to see evidence of creative thinking and a convincing reason as to why you want to work for them rather than someone else.
    Last edited: May 18, 2012
  5. May 18, 2012 #4
    Thank you this has all been good advice thus far. I will try to incorporate these suggestion when I rewrite the letter.
  6. May 19, 2012 #5
    That has already been commented on. I agree with the statements above.

    I recently read a nice sentence that semi-applies here: Hiring managers are not interested in reading the slogans made up by their colleagues in the PR department ( -> "modern and innovative company"). I personally would not dare claiming that a not-further-specified university degree has prepared me well for a career in a given company, unless I already worked at the company, know it very well, and therefore know that what I claim is actually true. But I certainly would mention the degree I have (or am about to obtain).

    The first actual content of your letter. I'd try to make more than a single sentence out of this by adding a few details (e.g.: what kind of experiments, what kind of data, what kind of analysis). I don't really know what "such as Excel and MATLAB" means. It sounds like "first we eat the math teachers, then the firemen, and then we continue in this fashion until everyone is eaten" (from Futurama). Find a suitable and well-sounding name covering the programs you are familiar with ("data analysis software", for example - but be sure to use your own brain).

    By "multiple projects", are we talking about the standard courseload or projects you did in addition to it? In the former case, I would perhaps refrain from making such a bit deal out of "I managed to get my degree", in the latter case I would stress it more and mention the projects explicitly (since they constitute potential stand-out points, and may actually make your "excellent work ethics" sound like more than a hollow phrase).
  7. May 20, 2012 #6
    This is the only sentence that matters. Everything else you can skip.

    "I am writing to inquire about a position as Mechanical Engineer at NAME OF COMPANY."

    Or better yet

    "I am applying for the position as a Mechnical Engineer at NAME OF COMPANY, which I discovered (through the career services department at X University/browsing the website at http:fpp/ or through my friend person X that works in department Y)."

    Or even better yet:

    "I am applying for position #5663 as listed on your web page which is for an entry level Mechanical Engineer."

    Or even better yet:

    Dear Dr. Smith:

    It was a pleasure to talk to you at the career fair which you held at X school on Y date. We talked shortly after 3:00 p.m. about careers at X, and you mentioned that X is looking for Mechanical Engineers.

    No one at any company that I have every worked in reads cover letters. The purpose of the cover letter is so that whoever sees it, sends it to whoever handles the job that you are looking for. If the person reading the cover letter isn't sure what position you are applying for, then it's going to get tossed into a black hole.

    Once it makes it to the person that reads the resume, then they are probably not going to read the cover letter at all. There's a good chance that the cover letter is going to get lost before it gets sent to the resume reviewer.
    Last edited: May 20, 2012
  8. May 20, 2012 #7
    All of the stuff about avoiding jargon, and emphasizing projects is good advice, but it should into the resume.

    One thing to remember when writing a resume is that you aren't writing a letter to a friend. The purpose reviewing resumes has a stack of about 50 to 100 resumes and they are just flipping through them. After reading the 20th resume from someone that has "good communications skills" or an "excellent work ethic" you start getting nauseous.

    What makes you different? Imagine someone going through a stack of resumes, what can you say about yourself that makes you *different* from everyone else in the stack.
  9. May 20, 2012 #8


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    Having gone through a lot of the last six months having to write covering letters for the first time in my life and finding it difficult (this would have been my first job change in twenty four years), I would pitch this somewhere in between what Timo and twofish-quant are saying about the sound advice posted. That is, state relevant (to the employer) qualifications, experience, training, achievements and so on, refer them to your resume (which you have done), and back up what you said in the covering letter there.

    Your situation may be different to mine, as I was applying for I.T jobs, and the main characteristic of the covering letter examples I read for this involved ability to spin and bull****, which I'm not very good at, and found the whole business difficult and time consuming. I contrast this with my application for the U.K. Met Office. They had an online application form and their advice on filling it out was, state something you did, how you did it, why you did it, and what the outcome was, i.e., back up what you are saying. I managed to fill that form out in about four hours.

    Hopefully you will fare better than I did.

    Good Luck!
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