You have a dream job or a dream internship – somewhere you’ve wanted to work forever OR somewhere you just stumbled upon but have convinced yourself is the PERFECT opportunity for you. How do you write a cover letter that expresses your passion for the opportunity but stays professional in tone?
I always compare this dilemma to my first experience writing a book. When I took my first stab at writing ALL WORK, NO PAY, I wrote the first chapter in the same tone that I speak to students (upbeat, funny, and slightly over-the-top). I was trying to get across my passion for the subject of internships. This is the same passion I use when speaking in front of an audience. Unfortunately, the tone I use for speaking didn’t translate well in book form. In fact, it came across as if I was talking down to my audience (clearly, not the tone that I was going for). I had to do a lot of hard work and soul-searching to find a tone that could still be read as upbeat and fresh but also maintained a sense of professionalism and authority.
I encourage all of you to spend time searching for that perfect balance as well. While you aren’t writing a book on internships – you still need to come across as an expert on yourself and the experiences that you’ve had. However, you have to find a way to deliver that expertise while still showing some of that passion you have for the opportunity. The right mix of passion and professionalism is going to be what gets you the job.
Here are a few call-to-action tips to help you accomplish the tone you are looking for:
1. Stick to the format. Some students make the mistake of sending a long-winded cover letter that seems to go on for days about their excitement for the opportunity. Sticking to the proper cover letter format of one page and no more than three paragraphs will help you keep a more professional feel to the document. For more notes on cover letter format, please read my book HERE.
2. Write the boring version, first. I encourage you to write out your super professional cover letter, first. After you have the format nailed down and establish your expertise you can go through each sentence and start to “color it up” a bit. Add 1-2 sentences of color per paragraph to really show your passion for the position and to put some personality into your writing.
3. Don’t be afraid to make it personal. If you are applying for a dream company that you have some sort of personal tie to, you can mention that, just keep it brief. Give yourself no more than 2-4 sentences to get your point across and tie your personal story into why you want to work or intern for the company. When you are done explaining your story, move on to the next part of the cover letter to maintain your sense of professionalism.