- Start with the basics of applying for a media job. Call the station to make sure the news director still works there. Also verify spellings and the station's address.
- Double check your letter for typos and grammatical mistakes. Any errors a news director sees may be interpreted as thinking you're a sloppy employee or are not detail-oriented.
Remember, you're in an industry where the details count. To an editor or news director, typos in a cover letter mean typos in their print or on-air products.
- Grab the news director's attention with your first sentence or two. "I am interested in the reporter opening I saw posted on your station's website" is how most candidates will start their cover letter. Think of something different.
Saying how much you "really want/need this job" is also a turnoff. If you didn't want the job, you wouldn't be applying.
Whatever is the most compelling reason that you should be hired, put it at the top of your letter. The editor or news director won't make it to the end if the beginning is boring.
- Look at the content. Make sure you sell yourself with each paragraph.
Decide which information is relevant to the station you are applying to today and eliminate the rest. For example, if you have 20 years in the business, there's no need to include awards you received in college.
Add to the information the news director sees from your actual media resume. Avoid simply repeating it.
- The most effective cover letters are also brief. To make sure yours is read, keep it less than one page and make good use of white space.
Break up your letter into short paragraphs and don't be afraid to use bullet points or other visual aids to draw the eye to the most important points you want to make. Truth is, an editor or news director will likely only skim your letter.
Skim it yourself to see what you pick up in less than 30 seconds. Rearrange sentences or paragraphs to improve your visual impact.
- Customize each cover letter to the job description. The more you draw out the details from the ad, the more you look like the right candidate to fill the position.
- Do your homework. Study the publication or station and use that information in your cover letter.
For example, a TV station's big community project could be a canned food drive at Christmas. Mention this in your cover letter to demonstrate that you know something about that particular media outlet. That alone won't get you the job but it sets you apart from all of the other candidates sending generic cover letters.
- If you and your potential boss have a mutual acquaintance, mention that person as long as you're sure they would give you a good reference. The media business is a small world so use the people you've come in contact with over the years to help position yourself as a less risky job candidate than someone who's completely unknown to the editor or news director.
- Include the best time to contact you. Media professionals work crazy hours. You may currently work on the night shift and aren't at your best to take a phone call from your next boss at 8 a.m.
- Have a friend read your cover letter. A fresh set of eyes can catch errors you may have missed or clunky wording that distracts from your cover letter's power.