A Clarifying Conversation About Cover Letters
OCD Career Corner
Published: Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 10:11
Katie has some questions of her own for Richard:
KV: Since you were pursuing a career outside of the industry you had experience in, how did you tailor your experience to be relevant to what the employer was looking for?
RR: Similar to what you suggested, I worked hard to understand the skills necessary for the job, and thought of experiences in my previous career that spoke to those skills. Starting here helped to shape what I wanted to discuss in the cover letter.
KV: What was the best resource to use when you were creating your cover letters?
RR: I started by referring to the cover letter writing guide that is available through OCD. I also spoke with MBA2s and fellow MBA1s that were recruiting for similar roles. Sometimes, I found this just as helpful as the writing guides.
KV: You were fortunate throughout the interview process in terms of getting many interviews. To the extent that your cover letter played a part in this, what did you do that you think may have helped?
RR: I think I did a good job of telling the story of why I wanted to switch careers and why that certain company was a good fit. I also was able to explain how my banking and analytical experience could be valuable for a career in marketing.
KV: Did you use the same cover letter for multiple applications?
RR: Not exactly the same, but I didn't reinvent the wheel. Ideally, if you're focused in your career search, the jobs you're applying to won't be that different from one another. Therefore, the basic template should remain fairly consistent. What should change every time are a) the specific skills that the employer may be looking for, based on the job description and/or conversations you've had with employees at that organization and b) what makes that particular organization unique, why you want to work for them, and how you can contribute. At the very least, change the name of the company!
KV: What advice do you have for MBA1s writing their cover letters for the first time?
RR: Write several drafts of your baseline cover letter before you submit your first one. I noticed that mine continually got better as I went through the application process, but I wished I had practiced more before I started dropping my cover letter for interviews. Also, have peers review them to tighten your story. Finally, don't wait until the eleventh hour to complete it or else you are asking for mistakes and a letter that might not make sense.