How to Write a Winning Cover Letter

by | Dec 4, 2020 | MY JOB Gen Z

Highlights from Chapter 4 in our forthcoming book.

The first step in reaching out into the void of the unknown, at the company where you believe you want to work, might just be the most difficult. If you do better with talking, then dial them up and see if you can get more information or even schedule an interview. — Otherwise, you’ll need to send a missive (likely via email rather than paper) that needs to stand out as accomplished yet humble, brief yet unique. Here’s how.


Cover Letter/Intro Email How-Tos


It’s Your First Impression on Them


The purpose of the cover letter (even if sent via email rather than on old-fashioned paper) is to demonstrate to the employer that you are a good fit for their organization and the role for which you’re applying.

Make It Personal for That Employer

To stand out, it’s important to personalize your note for each internship position. The first few sentences should show that you’ve done your research about the internship and the organization, and should make an employer want to learn more about you. The body of the letter is your chance to pick out a few keywords from the position description and dive into examples of how you’ve exhibited these skills.

A cover letter is also the first writing sample that an employer sees from you. Make every word count, and make sure the final version is polished and error-free.

Keep It Brief

Did you know? The majority of employers prefer a cover letter that’s 250 words or less.


Formatting Basics


  1. Font: Use a 12-point standard font (e.g., Times New Roman, Garamond, Verdana, Helvetica, Arial).
  2. Spacing: Set document margins to at least 1” all around. Center your letter on the page and left-justify (rag-right) all text.
  3. Heading: Use business letter format and provide a hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile in the signature area. (We’ll show you best practices for LinkedIn profiles in our next blog.)
  4. Use formal terms and lean toward a professional tone whenever possible.


Writing Style


  1. Be specific: Tailor each note to that particular position and employer. This shows the recipient that you’re truly interested in the job and that you took the time to research the organization.
  2. Be concise: Keep it short, to just a couple of paragraphs. Briefer is better! Be clear and avoid using flowery or boastful language. Save the details for the interview.
  3. Complement your resume/LinkedIn: Rather than repeating information, tell specific stories and use examples. The tone should be what you can do for the employer, not what they can do for you.
  4. NEVER be negative: Don’t apologize for not yet possessing a skill they would like to see.
  5. Proofread, proofread, proofread: Typos signal a lack of attention to detail. Get your parent, annoying sibling, or an eagle-eyed friend to go over it for you–because we humans simply cannot catch all of our own errors. That’s why books go through at least three edits (several more for this one!) before publication.


Cover Letter Template


The following is an internship cover letter template to provide some initial structure and inspiration. Ideally, you’ll supplement this template with your own creativity and flair.


Your Name


LinkedIn (hyperlinked)



To Whom It May Concern,


[Paragraph One]

[Body Paragraphs]

[Closing Paragraph]



Your Name



Mistakes to Avoid


“In a sea of youthful candidates,” Mark Slack writes in an article in The Muse, “most of your resumes will look very similar.”

The article provides practical tips on how to make a unique impression with the fewest possible words; shows how to master length, tone, genuineness, and confidence; and offers ways to shift from college-talk toward becoming an asset at your new company. We’ve condensed his list of resume mistakes for you here:

Common Mistakes

  1. It’s too long.
  2. It’s overly formal.
  3. It sounds disingenuous (false).
  4. You’re underselling yourself.
  5. It sounds selfish.
  6. It’s full of irrelevant filler.
  7. It has too much information about your college.


Sounds pretty tricky to strike the perfect balance between underselling and BSing, right? Yet, it is possible to present your accomplishments in a matter-of-fact tone and still come across as humble.


Show, Don’t Tell

The best tip we can offer you comes from our own English-major college studies: Show, don’t tell. That is, instead of bragging about being smart, describe the art or app or product you invented while still in school. Rather than trumpeting your ability to remain calm under pressure, cite the numbers of people you served at your restaurant or shop during a rush, or explain techniques you invented to make customers happy. Lay out the evidence for why you’ve got talent — for pity’s sake, don’t boast about it — and your next employer will reach their conclusions on their own.


Cover image used with permission from and gratitude for orimi-protograph-rO64pkNgqG0-unsplash.jpg of Unsplash. 


This post comes to you as a portion of the book:

MY JOB Gen Z: Finding Your Place in a Fast-Changing World

(c) 2021 by Suzanne Skees and Sanam Yusuf

An open-source, narrative nonfiction book full of true stories of jobs along with best practices for how to make your dream-job come true.


Note from the authors:

Join us each Tuesday and Friday as we release highlights from our new book, that will be FREE to our community members.

Share with your friends and followers; it’s FREE, open-source, and available to everyone.

No one makes a penny on this book project, which is intended to inspire and empower Gen Zers to launch their careers and land their dream jobs. Suzanne and Sanam have volunteered their time, and we’ve chosen this platform to transmit our book so that YOU don’t have to pay for publication costs.

However, if you feel inspired to help someone in poverty to have access to dignified work, jump here to donate directly to the nonprofit job-creation program of your choice–all vetted and supported by Skees Family Foundation.

Thanks for being with us! We’re excited to share our book with you.

–Suzanne & Sanam

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Suzanne Skees, author of the three-volume MY JOB series on real people in remarkable jobs, believes in the power of our jobs over our identity and wellbeing and, conversely, our ability to change our world with the work of our minds and hands. She lives by the Pacific Ocean and spends as much time as possible listening to the surf, and to silence.



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