Career Services

Lebanon Valley College

Convincing Cover Letters

Getting the attention of an employer in a cover letter is not always the easiest thing to do.  But if you know what impresses them, then you are well on your way to communicating in a manner that increases your chances of being asked to interview.

By now you’ve heard or read many of the things that the Center for Career Development recommends for cover letter writing (see Correspondence for the Job Search TIP Sheet).

  • Make it personal for each company/organization
  • Show a bit of your personality
  • Emphasize 1-2 qualifications the organization would likely be interested in and consider beneficial for the job to which you are applying
  • Explain your interest in the company and demonstrate your knowledge of it

I thought maybe viewing cover letter tips from another source might drive home the message a tad further.  Different versions often have a way of striking chords that help us “catch” things we may have previously missed or misunderstood.

That being said, please check out Getting into the Employer’s Frame of Mind with Your Cover Letter on the Resume Target blog.

-Sharon Givler, director of career development

Tell your Story: Market your Co-Curriculars

What have you done?

In addition to your coursework and professional activities, your college experience is likely comprised of involvement in co-curriculars. Clubs, athletics, study abroad, leadership roles, and community service are all great examples that are not only fun and rewarding, but potentially impressive to future employers or graduate schools.

Start by listing your co-curricular activities, including time frame and level of participation. Are you in a leadership role in an organization? An active member? Captain of your team? Going into your second year as a resident assistant?  Next, think about skills that are in demand and ways in which you can demonstrate those skills with examples from your involvement.

We’ve discussed the S.T.A.R. method for crafting career stories, so let’s focus on how to better market co-curriculars, specifically in a resume. We encourage students to bulk up their resume’s bullet points to best highlight accomplishments, as opposed to tasks. Saying “led meetings,” “helped freshmen transition to college,” or “ran drills and practices” may show what you’ve done, but it doesn’t say anything about your ability to do them effectively.  Follow these steps to better highlight your strengths:

  • STEP 1 – Skill: What did you get out of performing this duty?
  • STEP 2 – Structure: Put this result into a statement. I learned……
  • STEP 3 – Verb: Replace “I learned” by starting the new statement with an action verb.
  • STEP 4 – Clarify: Go back to original duty and ask who, what, where, when, why, how

As an example, if your original bullet point says “helped students transition to college,” a revised (and bulked up) one might become:

  • Step 1: Leadership skills
  • Step 2: I learned leadership skills while helping students transition to college
  • Step 3: Strengthened leadership skills while helping students transition to college
  • Step 4: Strengthened leadership skills by facilitating small group sessions and organizing activities to familiarize six incoming freshmen to college life.

The second option is a much more substantive example of your experiences and can be tailored to highlight many different strengths.  Following the steps can also help you in planning out career stories or drafting cover letters and essays that incorporate your involvement. Bottom line, co-curriculars are a big part of the college experience.  Be sure you are marketing them effectively!

~ Gwen Miller, associate director, career development

Make the Choice to Read Job Choices

Among many traits that employers look for in ideal candidates, resourcefulness and an inquisitive approach to problem-solving are right up there.  Learning about the latest trends and resources, as well as staying current on the competition, are important to many organizations for success.  Students should take a similar approach to career planning and the internship/job search!

Each month, the Career Services Blog will spotlight a few of the tools and tips that we believe are valuable.  This month, I’m encouraging you to get acquainted with the digital Job Choices magazine, accessible on the Resources for Students page of the Career Services website.

Why? Because you can be assured that these online magazines, compiled and distributed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, contain oodles of relevant articles and information for your job or internship search.  Published annually, each magazine – Job Choices and Job Choices, Diversity Edition – covers information from rights and responsibilities of job seekers, to social media, to graduate school or first years on the job.  Take a look at the contents page of the Job Choices edition:

Job Choices picture


If that doesn’t inspire you to take a look, maybe the opportunity to win $500 by taking a Reader Poll will (details on page 5 of the magazine).  Two LVC students have won within the past several years…maybe your resourcefulness will also be rewarded!

*Note: Even if you don’t win the $500, can we agree that resourcefulness for resourcefulness’s sake is generally a reward in and of itself?  I think so!

~Gwen Miller, associate director, career services

Researching Companies – the most important activity of job searching

Spring often means that many students are engaged in an active search for jobs or internships.  Identifying companies of interest is certainly the first step, but what comes next?  Your resume, along with your cover letter or presence/conversation at a career fair, is your opportunity to illustrate how you would be a good fit for a position or organization.  That means that you should be purposefully highlighting skills, abilities, and attributes that are relevant to the employer.

Figuring out what is relevant is the behind-the-scenes preparation before your resume is created, your cover letter is drafted, and your interview responses are practiced.  By researching the organization and industry of interest, you will be able to tailor your job search materials and create a strong personal brand that advocates for why you should be considered as a candidate.

According to the Digital Job Choices Magazine, available through the Career Services website, “Researching employers is perhaps the single-most important activity you will undertake in your job search.  The information you uncover can help you:

  • Discover organizations that are a good match for you,
  • Identify the organization’s goals and needs,
  • Tailor your resume and cover letters to highlight your skills and experiences that match the employer’s needs,
  • Know what questions to ask employers,
  • Demonstrate your interest in and enthusiasm for the organization,
  • Answer interview questions with confidence, and
  • Make an informed employment decision.”

Click HERE for this 4 page article that advises where to begin, offers research resources, information you should be looking for, and websites to delve into specific industries.  Don’t skip this step!  The more effort you put in, the more confident you will feel when making a positive impression on potential employers.

Rules for Writing Cover Letters

According to the CareerSpots Video The Cover Letter, there are 5 rules to keep in mind when writing a letter that will accompany your resume in the job/internship process.

  • Rule 1 – Always send one!  Even if it’s not specifically requested, it is an excellent piece that enhances your application packet.
  • Rule 2 – Get personal.  Cover Letters must be tailored to each specific job for which you are applying.  It’s a good idea to learn the name of the individual who will be reading it.  This may require you to call the organization and ask who you should address your cover letter to – although it takes additional work it is worth the effort!
  • Rule 3 – One page only.  Your letter should follow professional business format.  Be concise!
  • Rule 4 – No typos.  If your submit a one page document with errors, employers will question your ability to communicate effectively in other work assignments.
  • Rule 5 – Use a professional email address.  Whether your letter is sent via email or includes your contact information within the letter, choose an email address that is professional and won’t distract employers from the letter’s intent. Creating an address such as your is the safest bet.
  • Additional writing tips: Describe how you are the best fit within the organization and for that specific job.  Don’t simply reiterate your resume in paragraph form; tell them how your past experiences have prepared you for their role.  Be sincere in expressing your interest!

Career Services offers additional help in writing cover letters online or by meeting with us for individual assistance.  Keep in mind that cover letters take time to write; utilize the resources available to you and take the time necessary to ensure you make a positive first impression through your written communication!