Happy Birthday To You! 4 Ways Cover Letters and Birthday Cards are Actually Very Similar

Think about the best birthday card you’ve ever received.  What made it the best?  Did it refer to specific memories from the relationship you share with the person who sent it?  Make you smile?  Say exactly what you needed to hear to make you feel special on your birthday?

Birthday cards and cover letters have a lot in common.  Even though writing a cover letter can be an extremely daunting task, comparing it to the simpler task of writing a birthday card for a close friend or family member might help.

Certain components of the best birthday cards can also make great cover letters.  Here are a few to get you started thinking about how you can apply your birthday-card-creating skills to ace your next cover letter:

  1. Personalize it. Getting a birthday card addressed to you personally feels so much better than getting one accidentally addressed to someone else or to nobody at all.  Instead of addressing your cover letter “To Whom It May Concern,” try to find out who exactly within the company or graduate school you’re applying to will be reading it.  Address it to them personally instead.
  1. Don’t be generic. You can totally tell when someone gives you a generic birthday card and just writes your name on the top.  Employers and graduate school representatives can also tell when you just insert the name of their company or program into a generic cover letter.  Take the time to include details about each individual company and/or program before submitting.  This extra effort can make you stand out among all the other generic applicants out there.
  1. Make it about them. Wouldn’t it be weird if you got a birthday card that only had content about the sender written inside?  After all, it’s your birthday and they should be writing what you want to hear!  When you write a cover letter, keep in mind what the employer or graduate school representative reading it will be looking for when reviewing it.  If you focus too much on yourself, they may not be able to see how you fit within their company or program.
  1. Show them how much you care. The most important purpose of a birthday card is letting the receiver know you’re excited it’s their birthday and you’re so glad you’re friends/family/etc.  The purpose of a cover letter is exactly the same; write in a way that the employer or graduate program will know how excited you are to potentially join them in the future.

Check out the Center for Career Development’s Résumé and Professional Writing Guide for more tips about writing a cover letter and call us at (860) 486-3013 to schedule a 30-minute appointment to have your draft reviewed!

By Lisa Famularo
Lisa Famularo Graduate Assistant Lisa Famularo