Before you draft your cover letter, you’ll want to analyze the job ad to identify which skills and experiences the employer values most.
Begin by selecting a job ad or description that interests you. Next, follow the steps outlined in this exercise to identify required skills and qualifications, and to explain how your past experiences demonstrate you’re a strong candidate.
Identify skills and qualifications from the job ad
Read through the job ad and identify words or phrases that express the most important skills and qualifications. Examples may include “strong communication skills” or “ability to juggle multiple priorities,” or attitudes and traits such as “pays attention to detail” or “optimistic and goal-oriented.” Other language may be a bit harder to interpret, like “exercise professional skepticism” or “ability to work with diverse stakeholders.”
Say it in your own words
Here’s where you make sense of the language you selected in step one. Ask yourself: How can I interpret this skill or qualification? What does it tell me about the company’s priorities? What is the firm looking for? Remember that meaning will change based on the job context. For instance, “ability to take initiative” will translate into one thing for a front desk position at a doctor’s office, and something quite different for a research assistant position in a lab.
Find a specific example of how you demonstrated this skill or qualification
Here’s where you prove that you have the required competencies. Select professional, academic, and/or extracurricular experiences you’ve had that showcase your abilities. Don’t just list you responsibilities or accomplishments, but instead provide specific examples of tasks, projects, issues, or situations you’ve handled. To show that you have the ability to take initiative, for example, you could describe a time you independently solved a problem in prior job without first being instructed to do so by your supervisor.
Tie your experience back to the specific position
Now, tie your ideas back to the company or organization. Ask yourself: Given my experience, why am I a good match for this company? Explain how your experience will be valuable to the organization, and what you can contribute to the new role.
Repeat this process for each core skill
Generate a list of your most persuasive examples by repeating this process for each skill. For each skill/qualification you identified in step one, ask yourself:
- How can I connect my own skills, training, and experience to this phrase in the job ad?
- What are synonyms for this skill?
- How have I demonstrated this skill (or my capacity to learn it) in the past?
- How did my past use of this skill prepare me for this specific role?
Once you’ve generated many examples, you’re ready to start drafting your letter. Read through our model cover letters to get a sense of how other students have built strong application materials:
- Model cover letter—Front desk position
- Model cover letter—Audit intern position
- Sentence structures used in cover letters
This resource from the Baruch College Writing Center is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You are free to share, adapt, transform, or otherwise use this material in any medium, with attribution.