This post is part of our new blog series that will aim to help young professionals land and make the most of their PR agency internships. For the next few weeks, expect to find useful advice and first-hand experiences from our bloggers and very own whiz-bang team of interns.
Personally, I hate writing cover letters. You probably do too.
It’s obnoxious to have to dump your personality on a page and find the right balance between individuality and professionalism. Well, get over it. Hating things generally doesn’t make them go away, as evidenced by Carrot Top (and prop comics in general), the Freshman 15 and lines at the DMV.
Here are a few tips on what not to do when drafting a cover letter.
- Don’t spell names wrong – I know this is obvious, but please allow me to stress that you may actually NOT know how to spell someone’s name, no matter how basic it sounds. Some people have weird unusual names or spellings, and those people spend large portions of their lives correcting people and slowly spelling their names out loud. Spare them from opening one more piece of correspondence that rubs this pain in their face. As an example, I once had a boss whose last name was Harrist. Yeah. With a “T” – can you imagine? I triple checked that sucker before drafting my cover letter, and while I never brought it up, I’m sure he appreciated the diligence. I also had a news editor whose name was Rik. As it turns out, it was short for Henrik, which is pretty cool, but I am fairly certain he spent 30 percent of his days fiercely deleting press releases from anyone who dared address him as Rick.
- Don’t overuse the word “I” – This is a recurring theme in intern applications we receive at Weber Shandwick. In some cases virtually every sentence starts with “I.” This can be hard to work around, because you are supposed to talk about yourself. But focusing on your specific valuable experience and the type of work you want to do can offer more refreshing ways to start a sentence. For example: “While interning at …” At the very least, avoid starting each paragraph with “I.” This becomes very tedious, very quickly.
- Don’t talk excessively about what the position/company can do for you – This is another frequent mistake of people just entering the job market. When you’re enthusiastic about a company, it’s easy to go overboard when trying to demonstrate your knowledge about what they do by explaining how it dovetails with your personal goals. But a cover letter should primarily be about what you can do for the company. If you don’t know what you can do for the company – specifically – maybe reconsider your application.
- Don’t apply just because you need a job – any job… And if you do, I shouldn’t be able to figure that out too easily – This happens a lot in this economy. Business grads and people who aren’t remotely interested in public relations need some kind of experience when they graduate. Please don’t make that obvious. Hiring managers always prefer people who are genuinely enthusiastic, and can generally tell who isn’t. Don’t dictate in your cover letter that you are interested in business, marketing, public relations, and that “stuff in general.” All managers have received these cover letters. All managers have rejected them. Furthermore, follow up emails asking for other suggestions of “any companies” that do “anything” “in Seattle” only reinforce our gut feeling that you’re trying to use the company as convenient side-step in your otherwise great plans to take on the world.
- “I’ve never done PR, but …” Don’t discuss three different restaurants jobs and the six families you babysat for – If you haven’t had a lot of prior experience in the field that you’re applying for, it doesn’t boost your chances to detail your experience mitigating client expectations at Papa Murphy’s. Enough said. If you have a boss in an unrelated field who will praise your work ethic, talents and language skills – great – save it for your references.
- Don’t cut and paste something from the Internet, or use generic language – Everyone has a skeleton cover letter (or five) they use to repurpose for different jobs and companies. That’s ok. Sending the exact same thing to every company is not. In order to do that without screwing it up, you have to be so general and bland that you will never to stand out.
- Don’t list off prior job duties without highlighting your accomplishments – Most cover letters get into relevant duties in prior positions, which makes sense. But the strongest applicants also point out their successes. It’s the difference between: “I wrote press releases and pitched local media” and: “I wrote press releases and personally secured local placement with three major broadcast stations and two print outlets. This ultimately resulted in long-term media relationships for our client.” This may be more applicable for resumes, but also works for cover letters.
- Um, don’t … not send a cover letter – Pardon the double negative, but sending a one sentence email and a resume is not the same as sending a cover letter. People won’t assume you’re stupid for doing this, but inevitably someone else will include a great cover letter with their application, and you’re automatically bumped out of the running. Also, when responding to a request for cover letters and applications, it’s unwise (particularly for intern positions) to write demanding more information before applying. Don’t create more work for someone who could be your boss someday.
- And in Conclusion… Have someone copy edit your work; no one gets it right the first time. Sometimes the scariest thing in the world is a blank page. Once you have a draft to work from, everything starts to fall into place.
Good luck! Let us know if you have any questions about what makes for a good or bad cover letter, or if you have any stories worth sharing.
Image courtesy of sboneham.
Hiring managers often read through cover letters to figure out which resumes or CVs they want to read. Building an informative and engaging letter is a necessity if you want to get a job interview. You can use the public relations cover letter example and do and don’t tips to make sure your own document will be truly attention grabbing.
- Do spend time perfecting your opening statement. The example applicant describes herself as a highly skilled public relations representative,” which should interest employers from the start.
- Don’t get caught up in tangents. Keep your entire letter focused on the skills, accomplishments, and experiences you have that make you a great fit for the public relations job at hand.
- Do try to match your letter to the company’s tone. Take the time to read through portions of the company website to learn about normal language used so you can incorporate that into your letter.
- Don’t be afraid to add some different formatting to your letter. You may be able to make your document stand out by incorporating a headline or a bulleted list.
Public Relations Advice
PR professionals handle public relations for businesses and organizations. To get hired as a public relations pro, you’ll need media savvy, great writing and speaking skills, and a cover letter that highlights your qualifications. If you need a hand with your letter, check out these cover letter examples. The cover letter examples below are an important resource you can use to improve your public relations cover letter. Click on any of the templates below to get started.
Cover Letter Tips for Public Relations
Those seeking jobs as a Public Relations, and any other location, should know what steps to take to make the searching process simpler. This short guide will help you get started.
1. Understand that the search will likely be a long one. That is just how the job market is right now. Because employers are looking for someone with a good attitude, you cannot afford to become pessimistic or discouraged if your job hunt drags on.
2. Do your research. Before you begin looking for work, understand what is expected of applicants in this field, what the typical hiring practices are, and what common methods others have used to break into the industry.
3. Know what other options you have as well. Additionally, there is a chance you will not be able to find the kind of work you are looking for. In this situation, you should also have an understanding of related work in other fields.
4. Always follow up on applications and interviews. Besides making you stand out from the crowd, it will ensure you are still a consideration for the job. In fact, many applicants are rejected simply because they are never heard from again.
5. There are many online resources available to you. Utilizing everything from cover letter or application assessments to databases will make your search more effective.
Public Relations Job Seeking Tips
If you are looking for jobs as a Public Relations, make sure to prioritize your cover letter. It will be one of the most important aspects of your search. This short guide should help you create a strong cover letter.
1. Be active. Focus on the things you have done, mostly in the accomplishments or experiences sections, instead of lists of facts or job descriptions. Employers want an active worker.
2. Write your cover letter as specific as possible. You should find ways to focus your cover letter around the specific job you are applying for. In fact, it is good practice to rework your cover letter slightly for each new job you consider.
3. Find a way to stand out. There will be many cover letters the employer looks at. Yours need to be unique so it will not blend in with the crowd. Think about how you would answer this question: What unique benefits do I bring to the table. “
4. Prioritize your experiences section. This is the most important part of your cover letter, and the section employers are most interested in, so it should be the longest, strongest, and the core of your cover letter.
5. Keep your cover letter concise. Only those with work histories extending past 10 years should consider having a cover letter longer than one page. Typically, your goal will be to completely fill a single sheet, without bleeding onto a second page.