As a computer science graduate, you know how to work hard to get results. Your cover letter is the place to convey the drive and intelligence that fueled you toward your degree.
Focusing your efforts to create a well-written, customized cover letter for each job you apply to will differentiate you from other candidates. Here's what to include (and what to leave out) on your first computer science cover letter.
Get specific from the start
Beginning your letter with the vague, impersonal "To Whom It May Concern" doesn't demonstrate to a potential employer that you're a savvy candidate. Chances are, it won't be the IT team or a fellow developer interviewing you. Do a little research and find the name of the human resources or hiring manager and address them specifically. You can conduct this research on LinkedIn, or via the company website.
Overlooking this detail, or getting it wrong, can get your letter discarded before the contents are even read. According to Dawn Farrell, a human resources consultant, you should also demonstrate knowledge of the company itself in your cover letter. Getting this right can set you apart from a stack of cover letters.
Demonstrate your attention to detail
Computer science majors know the importance of details — a mistyped line of code can lead to hours of troubleshooting. This skill will come in handy for your cover letters, where you will discuss your accomplishments, why you are an excellent fit for the position, and demonstrate your knowledge of the industry in less than a page. It's essential that your letter be easy to read and well-formatted.
Professional cover letter templates can help you properly format your cover letter and kickstart the writing process at the same time. Following a template can also allow you to write a cover letter that's tailored to your field, highlighting your technical experience and education. Review our collection of free cover letter templates for inspiration.
Farrell also looks to cover letters as a measure of a candidate's writing abilities, which means you should edit it carefully. Ask a mentor or someone in your college's career services office to read over your cover letter and provide feedback as well.
Illustrate how you're a fit for the company culture
It's helpful to learn as much as possible about the company and the position you're applying for. Not only will you be well-informed during your interview, but you'll also create a cover letter that taps into the company's culture and values. Spending extra time and care on these details will pay off in the long run. You'll be spending long hours chugging through data analytics or network security projects with your future coworkers, so it benefits you to learn as much about them as possible to guide the direction of your cover letter.
Log onto LinkedIn to research whether you (or any of your connections) know someone who works at the company where you're applying. Asking for an introduction and talking with someone who is employed there can be beneficial. You'll be able to learn more about the position from the inside, ask any CS career questions you may have, and, if you seem like a good fit, they may offer to pass your resume along.
You may also want to read reviews of working at the company on Glassdoor or other similar review sites. Just keep in mind that the people most motivated to write reviews are sometimes extreme – so take negative (and positive) reviews with a grain of salt.
Don't just rewrite your resume
One of the biggest mistakes recent graduates make on their cover letters is merely restating their resume content. Remember: The recruiter has a copy of your resume, so use your cover letter as an opportunity to tell the reader what you learned from the experiences listed on your resume.
If you interned at Google or a local tech firm last year, what did you take away from that experience? How has it made you a better candidate for this position? If you learned something interesting on the job, your cover letter is the place to discuss it.
Think of your cover letter as a time machine. In one page, you are going to connect your past, present and future. You should discuss your college experience, your employment history, current position and future career trajectory. Show a recruiter how you will benefit the company. No potential employer wants to read about how this position is going to help you out in the long term; they want to know how you are going to be a valuable part of their team going forward.
Make a lasting impression
The closing paragraph is your final word to the recruiter or hiring manager. It's a great time to restate your proposed value to the company. Thank the reader for reviewing your materials and offer to provide them with any further information they would like. While first impressions are important, last impressions are critical as well.
Check out our Cover Letter Builder to perfect your letter and shape it into a compelling case that will get your computer science credentials noticed. You can also browse our Cover Letter Examples to find inspiration.