A cover letter is a formal document typically submitted alongside a job application or resume. It serves as a complement to your resume and provides an opportunity for you to introduce yourself to a human rights employer, highlight your qualifications and skills, explain your interest in the job, and convey why you are a strong candidate for the position. In contrast to your resume, a cover letter is more narrative and can include information not found in your CV. It allows you to tell a story about your career, explain career gaps, or address specific job requirements. In this article you will learn how you can create your own cover letter.
Let’s first have a look how a typical cover letter is structured:
City, State, ZIP Code
Your Email Address
Your Phone Number
City, State, ZIP Code
I am writing to express my strong interest in the Human Rights Internship position at
[Organization Name], as advertised on your website. With my educational background in
[Your Relevant Degree], a deep passion for human rights issues, and a commitment to making a meaningful impact in the field, I am eager to contribute to your organization’s mission and objectives.
Throughout my academic journey at
[Your University], I have developed a solid foundation in human rights, international law, and social justice advocacy. My coursework has equipped me with a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by vulnerable populations worldwide and the legal frameworks that underpin human rights protection.
My previous experiences have further enhanced my dedication to human rights advocacy. I have had the privilege of volunteering with
[Name of Human Rights Organization or Project], where I assisted in researching and documenting human rights violations, organizing awareness campaigns, and collaborating with local communities to promote education and empowerment. These experiences have not only sharpened my research and communication skills but also deepened my commitment to effecting positive change in the realm of human rights.
I am particularly drawn to
[Organization Name] because of its exceptional reputation for its work in [specific area of focus, e.g., refugee rights, gender equality, indigenous rights]. Your organization’s dedication to upholding human rights and empowering marginalized communities aligns perfectly with my personal values and career aspirations.
As an intern at
[Organization Name], I am eager to contribute my skills and enthusiasm to your projects. I am confident that my strong research abilities, attention to detail, and ability to work collaboratively will allow me to excel in this role. I am also excited about the opportunity to learn from your experienced team members, gain exposure to real-world human rights issues, and make a meaningful contribution to your ongoing initiatives.
Enclosed is my resume, which provides additional details about my educational background and relevant experiences. I am available at your earliest convenience for an interview to discuss how my skills and passion align with the goals of
[Organization Name]. You can reach me at [Your Phone Number] or [Your Email Address].
Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the possibility of joining the dedicated team at [Organization Name] and contributing to your vital work in promoting and protecting human rights worldwide.
How to use the human rights cover letter template above
The template above is a good starting point. You can use the text as a basis to formulate your own cover letter. Don’t simply copy and paste and fill in the gaps. Work on your own unique version that sets you apart. Recruiters will notice the difference.
#1 Identify your strongest qualifications and skills
The first step in the process is to identify what information you should put into your cover letter. There are some obvious ones like your master’s degree and previous work experience. However, as an entry level professional you won’t have ten years of experience to draw from. That means you’ll need to explore what other skills/experiences could be relevant. Below are some examples:
|Experience or Activity||Skills Acquired|
|Led a Volunteer Group||– Leadership and team management
– Event planning and organization
– Conflict resolution and negotiation
– Communication and interpersonal skills
|Freelance Writing or Blogging||– Writing and editing skills
– Research and content creation
– Time management and meeting deadlines
– Digital marketing and SEO knowledge
|Part-time Customer Service Job||– Customer relations and problem-solving
– Adaptability and dealing with diverse personalities
– Time management and multitasking
|Language Tutoring||– Teaching and instructional skills
– Cross-cultural communication
– Patience and adaptability
|Social Media Management||– Social media marketing and content creation
– Analytics and data-driven decision-making
– Brand promotion and online community engagement
|Photography/Videography Hobby||– Creative visual storytelling
– Technical skills (e.g., camera operation, editing)
– Attention to detail and aesthetics
|Participation in Student Government||– Governance and decision-making
– Public speaking and presentation skills
– Budgeting and financial management
|Participation in Fundraising Events||– Fundraising and donor relationship management
– Event planning and logistics
– Marketing and promotional skills
|Participation in Debate Club||– Persuasive communication
– Research and critical thinking
– Public speaking and argumentation
I landed my first Amnesty International internship because I had video-editing and photography skills. That’s what the organization needed to cover our vigils for the blogger Raif Badawi. Over time, when I earned the trust of my team, I was able to take on different tasks, that were more in line with my ambitions.
Don’t underestimate what you bring to the table for the organization. Even if you are very young, you have plenty of experiences to draw from. You could be well-versed in the latest social media tools, possibly surpassing the current social media manager’s familiarity (e.g. with TikTok or Mastodon). Your grasp of trends within your age group may align closely with the organization’s target audience, enhancing your ability to connect effectively. Additionally, your fresh perspective and energy could invigorate the team, injecting vitality into a well-established environment. Your potential to introduce unconventional viewpoints may foster positive disruption, and as a relatively “blank slate”, experienced mentors and leaders may find joy in nurturing your development into a thriving professional.
If you are not so sure what other skills could be helpful, consider reading some of our articles:
- 8 Skills to Expand Your Human Rights CV
- 10 Skills You Need as An NGO Development Coordinator
- 10 Skills You Need as Advocacy Officer
- 5 Skills You Might Need in a Human Rights Job
#2 Tailor your experience to the specific job
Tailoring your cover letter to each job application is a strategic move that makes a significant difference in your job search. Unlike generic templates, a tailored cover letters directly addresses the specific requirements of the position, showcasing the relevance of your background and experience, and ultimately setting you apart. Below is an example how you could tailor the same experience “led a volunteer group” to different positions. Please note that you should never “invent” anything that is not true, but you can choose where you put emphasis, what you highlight and what you skip.
|Internship Position||Tailored Skills Obtained from “Led a Volunteer Group” Activity|
|Human Rights Education Intern||– planning human rights workshops for volunteers
– coordinating educational events and seminars
– Assisting in the design of educational activities
– Facilitating effective communication with diverse groups during human rights events
|Research and Advocacy Intern||– Spearheading volunteer-led research projects on human rights issues
– Organizing advocacy events and campaigns to raise awareness
– Addressing internal conflicts within the volunteer group to maintain focus on advocacy goals
– Collaborating with various stakeholders to advance advocacy initiatives
|Community Outreach Intern||– Developing and leading community engagement initiatives
– Organizing outreach events to promote human rights awareness
– Resolving conflicts and fostering collaboration among community volunteers
– Building partnerships with local organizations to expand outreach efforts
#3 A few things to avoid
While there is no universally accepted right way to do cover letters, there are a few things you should avoid in the context of human rights organizations.
- Don’t start with “Dear Sir or Madam”. “Sir” and “Madam” are binary gender-specific terms. Using them may exclude individuals who do not identify strictly as male or female, as well as non-binary and gender-nonconforming individuals. If the organization works specifically on such issues, you are better off using a different salutation.
- Don’t include an image. Including a photo can introduce bias into the hiring process. Employers should make hiring decisions based on qualifications, not on a candidate’s physical appearance, race, age, gender, or other personal characteristics. A photo can inadvertently lead to bias, even if unintentional.
- Don’t be overly passionate. Focus on your professional qualifications and how they relate to the position. You won’t get hired just for being passionate and highlighting your passion too much makes you look less experienced.
- Don’t Make It Too Long. Human rights cover letters should be concise and to the point. Avoid lengthy paragraphs or excessive details that may overwhelm the reader. Less than 1 page is enough.
- Don’t Generalize: Be specific in your statements. Don’t make general claims like “I’m passionate about human rights.” Instead, provide examples and evidence of your commitment, such as relevant coursework, internships, or volunteer experiences.
- Don’t Ignore Format and Proofreading: Neglecting proper formatting, grammar, and proofreading can detract from your professionalism. Ensure your cover letter is well-structured and free from errors.
- Don’t Overstate or Exaggerate: Be honest about your qualifications and experiences. Avoid exaggerating or making false claims, as they can be easily verified and may damage your credibility.
- Don’t put your best qualifications at the end. Put them first. In movies it’s great to have the showdown at the end but in cover letters they should come at the beginning. Recruiters are busy people and unlikely to read your entire cover letter at the first glance. You need to make a great impression immediately to be considered for the next round.
How to use AI Tools to improve your human rights cover letter
There is nothing wrong about using AI tools to improve your cover letter. But keep in mind what we mentioned above: Tailor! Be specific! Be authentic! If your cover letter sounds too generic, exaggerates or feels out of touch with your real background, an AI written cover letter will be a disadvantage.
If you choose to use AI, the quality of your prompt matters. You should provide the tool with enough information to return more tailored and unique results otherwise your cover letter will be too boring and generic. Below is an example of a prompt. Flesh it out further. Consider adding some achievements, more nuance and detail.
“Please write a cover letter for the internship position as social media intern at Amnesty International. I have studied the Vienna Master of Arts in Human Rights and wrote my thesis about MOOCs as a tool for Human Rights Education. I have worked in a bar for three years and took dancing classes throughout high school. I also worked at a book store, where I was responsible for accounting and sales. I speak three languages fluently.”
And here are some excerpts of AI responses, that demonstrate how ChatGPT has “translated” the information into a cover letter:
- With my diverse work experiences, and proficiency in multiple languages, I am enthusiastic about contributing my skills […]
- My thesis allowed me to explore innovative approaches to making human rights education accessible to a global audience.
- My work experience has further honed my skills and adaptability. I have spent three years working in a bar, where I developed exceptional interpersonal and communication skills while managing diverse customer interactions. My high school years were dedicated to dancing classes, fostering discipline, teamwork, and creativity.
You might want to tone it down a bit in your cover letter and highlight only what find most relevant. AI tools sometimes exaggerate and you don’t want to display a lack of humility or judgement. Working in a bar for three years will probably not make you an expert in human rights law.
While AI written content is normally grammatically flawless it also lacks soul and surprise. So instead of just entering a prompt and sending off your application, spend time editing it and make it sound more like yourself and be prepared that everything you mention in your cover letter could be subject of a more in-depth conversation in the interview. So if you are not convinced that your dancing classes were fostering discipline, teamwork and creativity, don’t mention it.
Strategies for improving your human rights cover letter
There are a variety of other strategies and tools that you can use when drafting your cover letter. Below are some that I’ve used in my job search frequently.
#1 Mimic the language
Before you write your cover letter, you might want to explore the website of your potential future employer. Familiarize with the terminology and language they use. Take a closer look at the job description as well. Mimicking an organization’s language and terminology helps you align your application with the organization’s culture and values. Organizations often use specific words and phrases that reflect their unique identity, and using these in your cover letter can signal that you’re a good fit culturally.
#2 Improve Readability
In academia and during our studies we are taught to write in a very specific way. Unfortunately, this kind of writing is less effective in other contexts. Your cover letter should be catchy with short sentences and easy to read and understand. Use readability tools to identify sentences that are too long and complicated.
#3 Let others read it
Last but not least, ask friends, family or a former professor to read it. The feedback will help you improve it and you’ll learn something in every feedback loop. If this short guide was helpful and you successfully landed a job, please consider sharing your cover letter with us so we can make it accessible to our readers.