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Contributors:Angie Olson, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

Before you start to write a cover letter, you should gather information about yourself, the company, and the job. This page will help you learn what kind of information to find, where to find it, and how and why to use that information to "sell yourself" in a cover letter.

How can I learn what will impress prospective employers?

In order to impress prospective employers when writing a cover letter, you must first know what they are looking for in candidates. Learning more about the company itself—and what they value—can help you do this. Here are some suggestions:

Information about each suggestion are covered in the sections that follow.

Job seekers at Purdue University may find value in the Purdue career Wiki here.

The following are additional Purdue OWL resources to help you write your cover letter:

Contributors:Angie Olson, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

Before you start to write a cover letter, you should gather information about yourself, the company, and the job. This page will help you learn what kind of information to find, where to find it, and how and why to use that information to "sell yourself" in a cover letter.

How do I read job advertisements carefully?

One way to learn about a company and what it values is to carefully read the job ad. Job advertisements describe the qualifications and skills a company is looking for in a candidate. Therefore, they are good resources to learn what a company values...they spell it out for you.

Here are some tips to help you pull important information from a job ad:

Example: What are the key words in this job description?

"Looking for a highly-motivated, customer-oriented individual with excellent communication skills and multi-tasking ability to write public relations material."

Key words: highly motivated, customer-oriented (customer service), communication, multi-task, public relations material

Proof you can offer to meet these keywords:

  • I have kept a 3.8 GPA while being treasurer of the Liberal Arts Honors Council and tutoring other students (motivated, communication, multi-task).
  • I have worked as a waiter and as a sales manager at a computer store (customer service, communication).
  • I have written brochure, catalog, and newsletter copy for various communication classes (public relations, communication).

As you can see, the key words include implications about the skills, accomplishments, personality traits, and levels of education/experience your employer desires. Once you know what the company wants, you can start that list and be one step closer to your cover letter!

Contributors:Angie Olson, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

Before you start to write a cover letter, you should gather information about yourself, the company, and the job. This page will help you learn what kind of information to find, where to find it, and how and why to use that information to "sell yourself" in a cover letter.

How do I research corporate websites?

One way to learn about a company (or non-prof/educational institutions) and their values (in their employees and their work results) is to read the company's website. Here are some tips on how and what to research:

Once you find examples of the skills and qualifications the company values, you know what skills to describe in your cover letter. As with the job ads, a corporate website only gives you the key words. You now have to supply your cover letter with proof that you possess some of these "key words" by describing a few experiences.

Contributors:Angie Olson, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

Before you start to write a cover letter, you should gather information about yourself, the company, and the job. This page will help you learn what kind of information to find, where to find it, and how and why to use that information to "sell yourself" in a cover letter.

How do I talk to insiders of the company?

Talking to actual employees ("insiders") of a company is an excellent way to learn what the company looks for in candidates. There are a couple of ways to go about this:

Start by explaining that you plan to apply for a job and would like to know more about the company. They may send you information in brochures and letters. Then, you can read these documents for key words, just as with job ads and corporate websites. If, however, the contact is willing to answer questions, here are some ideas on what to ask:

Once you have a list of the values and skills a company looks for, you will have a better idea of how to focus your own cover letter.

Contributors:Angie Olson, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

Before you start to write a cover letter, you should gather information about yourself, the company, and the job. This page will help you learn what kind of information to find, where to find it, and how and why to use that information to "sell yourself" in a cover letter.

How do I refer to my university's career center?

One way to learn about a company and what it values is to refer to your university's career center. Most universities have a career center to help their student population with the transition to the business world. Because of their connections to different businesses and industries, a career center may be a good place to ask about a company's values.

There are really two connections to search for:

Even if the career center has no connection with the company, they may be able to point you in the right direction to learn more and prepare to write your cover letter.

Contributors:Angie Olson, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

Before you start to write a cover letter, you should gather information about yourself, the company, and the job. This page will help you learn what kind of information to find, where to find it, and how and why to use that information to "sell yourself" in a cover letter.

What if I do not have a qualification the employer is seeking?

First of all, do not panic. Then, go ahead and apply.

You may decide to not apply for jobs because you feel you lack an important qualification, whether it is the amount of experience or familiarity with a computer program. But you may be hired for another skill you do have!

You also may not realize that you do have a particular qualification. Remember to look at your past accomplishments and employment history. Chances are, you have a skill similar to what the company desires, you just might call it something different.

Example: You want to apply to a job that asks for retail experience, but you have never worked in retail. But...do you possess the kinds of skills someone with retail experience would have? If you have strong oral communication skills (from teamwork, presentations, etc.), you have at least one skill in common!

Consider this list of transferable skills (skills commonly found in most job descriptions) before deciding you are not qualified: