Most internship applications start with ‘Please offer me a placement in your reputable organisation’ and then go on to say nothing about this organisation, and to list 10 areas of interest, way beyond the organisation’s scope.
There is need to tailor your applications in order to stand out from the crowd. The fact that you have a degree or diploma is not a sufficient weapon in the competition; everyone else has one. So what is different about you? Why should you be the one they call and not any of the other applicants?
1. Read job advertisements carefully! This sounds simple but is often ignored, and is evident in irrelevant cover letters and resumes. These adverts contain the correct name or acronyms of the organisation, who to address the application to, and most importantly, what qualities and skills they are looking for. Internalising these enables you to tailor your cover letter and resume to showcase the skills that the potential employer is interested in.
2. The cover letter is your introduction to the employer, and is your first chance to impress. If you have a ‘common’ one that demonstrates apathy to the organisation and job advertisement, it is not likely that they will go on to see your resume.
Make use of the cover letter to demonstrate your knowledge on the organisation, front-load the skills sought and demonstrate your ability to pay attention to detail. Misspelling your own name in the first line will make the Human Resource personnel doubt your ability to write accurate reports.
If a position of administrative assistant is advertised, your first paragraph should talk about similar experience and with the appropriate qualification (name it) you believe you are able to fill the post.
Talk specifically about the organisation and the skills you believe you will be bringing to it, and maybe, the department you think you most fit in. This demonstrates that you understood the advert, invested time in knowing and understanding the organisation. Also, share their mission and goals to a considerable extent.
3. Thirdly, treasure and improve your CV often. If your cover letter sets you apart from the thousands of applicants, the resume is the next place to make sure you stick in the employer’s mind.
How? Make sure it has a neat format, is up to date, has no typos and needless to say, speaks to the job advert. In the cover letter you frontloaded your skills and abilities in brief, and how they fit the organisation. The resume is where you detail these skills and qualifications. And don’t underestimate the impact of citing your volunteer and internship experiences. Be careful to state your duties in your former work place. Proceed to list your special skills; refer to the advert and emphasise those sought after, and more.
For instance, Computer; MS Office, Stata, programming, typing, etc, public speaking, analytical reading and writing, ability to work under minimal supervision, counseling, etc, as necessary. Qualities may include; ability to stay calm under pressure, beating deadlines, creativity/innovativeness, leadership, commitment to the organisation’s values or whatever others are your own, e.g. social justice, customer satisfaction, etc.
4. Last but not least, review your documents before submission. A friend can help you look through to make sure they are clear and coherent. Just because the job situation seems bleak for many doesn’t mean we should go around aimlessly dropping off resumes and cover letters that have nothing to do with the jobs we are seeking.
Front-loading an IT degree and driving or listening skills for a job that clearly asked for a law degree and fundraising experience for the position of executive director, is a sure way to keep you job hunting for long. Yet, your degree and the listening skill are applicable in many other places.
Scrutinise jobs well and apply, purposefully, with outstanding cover letters and resumes that make you desirable.
Finally, after submitting the documents, follow up with a humble inquiry email in at least two weeks, about their receipt of the application, not their decision to hire you.