As a former co-op student herself and now a Co-operative Education Coordinator at the Mount, Lisa MacNeil has written or reviewed hundreds of cover letters. Today, it’s easy for her to tell which letters will catch the eye of a potential employer, and which ones may fall flat.

“We know that recruiters take about sixty seconds on average to read through a job application,” Lisa explains. “That’s not a lot of time to make a first impression, so when it comes to your cover letter, every word really does count!”

Top three tips

Over the years, Lisa has developed some top tips to help students set their cover letters apart from the pack.

1. Do your research. “Write every cover letter from scratch. It’s important to do your research on each company and incorporate that information into your cover letter. Employers can tell when your application is just a copy and paste job, and it turns them off. A little personalization can go a long way to demonstrating your interest and fit for a certain position.”

2. Don’t repeat your resume. “The purpose of your cover letter is not to simply regurgitate the experiences you’ve listed on your resume. Rather, it’s a chance to demonstrate your personal connection to the job, whether that’s an interest in a certain industry, the company culture, or a particular job duty. Focus on transferrable skills, and make sure when you do mention your past work experiences that they relate in some way to the job description.”

3. Poofred. I mean, proofread. “Don’t leave your application until the last minute. Write a draft copy of your cover letter a few days in advance, then set it aside for a few hours or days so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. And don’t rely on spellcheck to catch all your mistakes. Go over your letter with a fine-toothed comb, or get a friend or member of the Co-op Team to review it for you. Check for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, make sure you are addressing the right company and supervisor. Cover letters are the first chance you’ll have to show an employer that you can communicate clearly and in a concise manner.”

“We’re here to help”

The pressure to impress employers and condense all of your experience into a few brief paragraphs may feel overwhelming, but thankfully the Mount Co-op Office offers many resources to help students develop a strong cover letter.

“We offer review sessions in September and January where new students can have their co-op job applications critiqued by a senior student, and members of the Co-op Team can provide feedback via email up to two business days before the application deadline on Career Connects,” Lisa says. “All students can take advantage of additional online resources and cover letter templates on the co-op Moodle page, as well. At the end of the day, we’re here to help.”