A cover letter is your business card and your first impression! It introduces you to the employer, summarizes your key competencies, and tells the employer why you are the right person for the job. It also is a way of demonstrating your writing skills. If not done properly the recruiter might get the impression you did not take your application seriously and you do not really want to work for this employer. Therefore, the cover letter can make the difference between getting the job or not. So make it as compelling as possible!
For this, you should clearly state why you are writing the cover letter. If you have been referred to a potential employer by a friend or contact then mention this mutual contact by name as soon as possible so that it encourages your reader to keep on reading. If you are responding to a job advert mention where you learned of the position and the exact title of the position you are applying for. If you are writing a speculative application letter (in which you enquire about potential job openings) then state your specific job objective. As this type of letter is voluntary, it is even more important to capture the reader's attention. It is also a good idea mentioning why you are interested in that specific company, especially when you write a speculative application letter.
Next, outline what you have to offer. You have to convince the employer that you are the right person for the job. In responding to a job advert, refer specifically to the qualifications they have listed and illustrate how your particular abilities and experiences relate to the position you are applying for. Always talk about what you can offer the employer and not what they can offer you! You can do this by giving evidence that you have researched the organization thoroughly and that you possess skills that are vital within that organization. Point out your achievements and problem-solving skills. You also need to show that your education and work competencies are transferable and relevant to the position for which you are applying.
In general, your cover letter should be concise and not exceed 1 page in length. Always include a cover letter even if this is not specified in the job advert. Do not repeat what is already in your CV but instead make reference to it with sentences like 'As you can see from my CV…'. Moreover, follow below-listed dos and don'ts to master writing your CV:
- Address your letter to a named individual – never Dear Sir/Madam. Call the company, look on its website, or talk to others to find the correct contact
- Include the person's full name, title, company name, and company address – triple check the contact details as receiving a file that is addressed to someone else will close doors permanently
- Include your full name, address, and contact information
- Keep copies of everything you send
- Use a clear and simple design
- Use good quality paper
- Begin with a sentence like ‘Please find attached my CV in application for the position of…’
- Use simple language and uncomplicated sentence structures
- Tell the employer how you can meet his or her needs and what contribution you can make
- Distinguish your cover letter from other job-seekers by giving clear examples of your skills and abilities
- Follow up on your application – say you will do so in your letter and make sure you keep your promise!
- Make sure the envelope is clearly and properly addressed
- Send a CV without a cover letter
- Waffle – be direct! In the first paragraph, include the title of the position you are interested in and then move on to your specific qualifications
- Discuss salary unless the advert or job listing requires it, in which case you should give a range rather than a specific amount, such a $10k - $15k rather than $12k
- Talk about what the company can do for you – you need to stress what you can do for the company
- Use slang words and try to avoid contractions such as ‘don’t’ and ‘can’t’
- Send a cover letter without properly proofreading it or having it checked by someone else – poor grammar or punctuation mistakes are unacceptable and most employers will not take your application seriously
- End your letter passively. Instead of ending the letter with 'I look forward to hearing from you', close with 'I will call you next week to discuss a time for us to meet' but you must follow up if you say you will!
- Forget to personally sign your cover letter
When sending your cover letter via email, make sure you do the following:
- Do not write your cover letter in the email client but attach a properly designed file to the email
- Convert the file to pdf format to ensure the design stays the same on all computers
- Include a scanned signature of you to resemble the look-and-feel of print versions
- Keep an eye on the file size: normally the file size should not exceed 1 MB