WRITING A COVER LETTER – TIPS EVERY PROFESSIONAL SHOULD KNOW
WHAT IS A COVER LETTER?
The first question that comes to mind is what is a cover letter and why is it so important to land the job of your dreams? According to a popular definition, a cover letter is a document that is attached with your resume, which gives an insight into your skills and experience. A cover letter,
- Introduces you.
- Explains why you are writing to an organization or employer.
- Highlights your skills to the employer or recruiter.
- Requests a chance to meet personally, with a potential employer.
For all intents and purposes your resume, is that firs, crucial impression that could be the difference between you and the next talented guy being hired.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
One of the most common questions asked by job seekers is whether a cover letter is important in their hunt for a particular job. And rightly so, because job seekers spend precious time, as well as money, in some cases, to build impressive resumes that are supposed to highlight their achievements and prove their appropriateness for a position. But why is it, that even with a perfect resume you don’t always get a call back from a potential employer? You included everything in your CV, then why not? True, as job seekers, you may have included each and every one of your achievements and milestones in your resume. Then where did you lose out? Yes, it’s the cover letter! For any job application this is an instrumental factor, resumes are always an extension of the cover letter.
It is paramount to understand how a cover letter helps you in fast-tracking your resume to success; straight into the hands of your potential employer.
- A cover letter for a job application enables you to target the job as well as the employer in a focused manner. Doing this makes your resume is left to market your skills, strengths and experience as part of a holistic picture. As a result, the resume then needs lesser amendments according to the particular job posting, because the letter, which must be unique every time! For every employer, serves the purpose of highlighting as to why you are appropriate for the advertised job.
- As a rule, a great cover letter should not be a copy of your resume; rather it should tell the potential employer what is it about you that can fit well with the job description and why you want to work for that particular employer. Moreover, you will also need to highlight any unique skills and qualities that you can bring to the job that other applicants can’t.
- Your cover letter can explain things that your resume cannot. These include any large gaps in your employment history, reentering the job market or shifting focus of your career, relocating or working on a long-distance job-search etc.
WRITING A COVER LETTER
- Getting started – what do you need to remember?
For starters, remember that writing a cover letter is not as simple a task as you would like to believe; it requires time, thought, knowledge as well as understanding of yourself, the position you wish to apply for and the organization your applying to.
Many employers and head hunters read your cover letter first and some may not even consider your resume if they are not satisfied with your cover letter. Hence, it is of utmost importance that you present a polished and well written cover letter to your potential employers. Some important things to remember before you start writing your letter include:
- Research: Make sure that you do extensive research on the employer and the job. This can be done by researching on the employer’s position in the company, their work experience, their professional network. It is particularly useful to try to find out common contacts with the employer so that you can understand what kind of a personality the employer has, and tailor your letter accordingly. Moreover, it is useful to do research on the nature of the job and what skills are needed to perform it. Lastly, research on the organization is also important in order to understand the culture of the organization so that the letter can be tuned perfectly to their rhythm.
- Engage the reader: Your letter should be engaging to the reader, and it must use important keywords that are relevant to the job. Moreover, it should highlight the skills you possess that are needed to perform a job.
Pro Tip: Try to refrain from highlighting too many different skills, rather, focus on a few key skills that may be crucial to qualify for the job. Avoid unnecessary and negative information and highlight on the positives. Make sure that your cover letter has no grammatical mistakes, misspellings or typing errors.
- Be Interested: Make sure to add a personal touch to the letter by convincing the employer that you are interested in the organization and have made an effort to learn about them by acquiring relevant knowledge before you are called upon for an interview or discussion, if you are chosen.
- Tackle dead ends: Sometimes the employers are not disclosed in the job advertisement, in such a case, your letter still needs to specifically address the key job requirements and your zest needs to be voiced clearly in your letter. You will need to convey that you have reviewed their and understood their business; that the company is your employer of choice; how you believe that your personality fits the organizational culture and that you will fit in with their organization.
LET’S GET STARTED!
- Fundamentals of a cover letter
A cover letter typically has a number of paragraphs which are used to convey your message as a job seeker to a potential employer.
- First Paragraph
This is the most essential part of your cover letter as it triggers the attention of the employer, provides information about what you have to offer to the employer, and helps you shine through from all the other job seekers who have also applied for the position. The first paragraph should focus on your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) i.e. what makes you different from everyone else! What do you have to offer that they don’t? Identify at least three to four benefits that the employer will get from you.
- Second paragraph
In this paragraph, provide more detail of your professional or academic qualifications. Give more in-depth information about the benefits you offered to give in the first paragraph. Make sure to stress on key milestones and achievements, giving examples from your resume. Use action verbs to describe the milestones that you achieved. If you do not have solid work experience, focus on the skills you have that can be used in the current job posting.
- Third paragraph
In this paragraph, give reasons as to why you should be chosen for the position and how you best fit the organization’s goals. Combine the homework that you did regarding the company, with the information presented in your resume, to make your case stronger and more convincing.
- Fourth Paragraph
The last paragraph of your cover letter – the fourth paragraph, should be proactive. This implies confidence without going over board; request their response in the form of an interview or a meeting. You must reflect an assurance that you are a perfect candidate for the job; inform your employer that you plan to follow up.
Sample Cover Letter
The following sample of a cover letter for a finance job by an MBA student will aid you in writing your own version:
10 Orange County
European Peninsula, CA 12345
Mr. Jason White
California Investments, Inc.
64 Bolognese Street
Las Angeles, CA 12345
Dear Mr. White,
My agreeable personality, experience as a financial manager, and my recently completed MBA, makes me a strong candidate for a position as a financial broker for California Investments, Inc.
I recently graduated from the University of Las Angeles with a degree in MBA, where I was leading the finance society and society of financial brokers.
Although I have graduated recently, I would not call myself a typical fresh graduate. I have attended school in three different states. Moreover, I have worked, to finance myself, as a radio jockey, waiter and a newspaper editor.
I have the mental ability, skills and maturity to take on a career in finance and brokerage.
I will be in California till the end of this month and would like to meet with you concerning the position at California Investments. I will follow up this letter with a phone call to see if I can arrange a time to meet you.
Thank you for your consideration.
The internet is quite literally saturated with examples of good cover letter, go and explore on your own as well. Make sure that you keep all the points in consideration when writing your own cover letter. Do remember, you are your own person, with your own strengths and skills. Do not try to copy anyone and be confident in your own accomplishments and qualifications. Your confidence shines through, even if it is just a piece of paper.
Recommended external online sources for cover letters:
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