What is a Cover Letter?
Having a great cover letter is your first step in getting hired. It is the initial evaluation of your skills, your resume, and you as a worker and as a person. A cover letter is a letter that you send to accompany your CV when you apply for job. The important thing in the cover letter is to show that your skills match those for the job advert. It shows your motivation, commitment and relevant skills. A cover letter introduces you and your resume to potential employers or organizations you seek to join. It is the first document an employer sees, so it is often the first impression you will make. Take advantage of this important first impression and prepare the reader for your application, stating why you are writing, why you are a good match for the job and the organization, and when you will contact him or her.
The cover letter should focus more on the employer, in contrast to the resume, which focuses on you. Your resume or CV is all about you, whereas your cover letter is all about the employer. Sending your resume without a cover letter is like saying you only care about your needs rather than the employer’s. Your cover letter should be designed specifically for each position you seek. Do not design a generic standard letter and send it to every potential employer. A personalized, targeted, well-written cover letter is your chance to attract the employer for a closer look. A cover letter should complement, not duplicate, your resume. Its purpose is to interpret the data-oriented, factual resume and add a personal touch. It should explain your experiences in a story-like format that works with the information provided in your resume. Effective cover letters explain the reasons for your interest in the specific organization and identify your most relevant skills or experiences, and how these skills are matching to the required skill set, or in other words, matching the employer needs with your qualifications. They should also express a high level of interest and knowledge about the position.
Why do I need a cover letter?
If you are applying for a specific position and will be sending your resume hoping to land an interview for said position, you need a cover letter. Why is a Cover Letter so important?
Makes the first good impression:
Sending your resume to a company without a cover letter is like shaking someone’s hand without having a chance of introducing yourself. Your cover letter is the very first, and sometimes only, thing an employer will see. It’s your first chance to introduce yourself, show your enthusiasm for the position. It’s a sales document; an attention-grabbing bit of writing to make the employer want to meet you. Use your cover letter as an opportunity to show the hiring manager what you can do for them once you’re hired. When your cover letter attracts interest, employers read your resume to confirm a positive first impression.
Accepted not excluded:
Hiring managers need to narrow down the list of accepted applicants, and sometimes you may have some red flags in your resume such as unexplained gaps, career transitions, or lack of required skills, the cover letter is the perfect opportunity to address these issues head on, and avoid getting passed up. When your most recent work experience is different from the career field you want to enter, use your cover letter to accent your skills that best match the new field. In this competitive job market, you may not get the chance to explain yourself at an interview, so increase your chances of being accepted by answering the questions a hiring manager may have when your resume is reviewed.
Confirms critical thinking skills and sells your benefits:
A cover letter demonstrates your ability to understand, formulate ideas and fulfill a company’s specific needs. It shows that you are smart enough to master the company’s products, services, markets, and employment needs by correlating an employer’s requirements with your top competencies and skills, your knowledge, your work experience. The cover letter proves that you can communicate your thoughts in writing. A cover letter is evidence that you’re able, knowledgeable, talented, and that you take pride in your work. By contrast, a poor and boring letter suggests that your work will be poor and boring. Do your best to reflect your attitude, personality, motivation, enthusiasm, and communication skills.
Do not underestimate this tool as it can be a great asset in your job hunt. It may make the difference between obtaining a job interview and having your resume ignored, so it makes good sense to devote the necessary time and effort to writing effective cover letters. . Writing a cover letter often seems like an overwhelming task. However, if you take it one step at a time, you’ll soon be an expert at writing cover letters to send with your resume.
How should I Write a Cover Letter?
There’s a very easy way to work out what to include in your cover letter: look at the job posting. Treat the specification like a question that you are answering and exactly match your skills and experience to the job requirements. If you are switching careers and don’t exactly match what the job posting is looking for, use the space to make a case for your transferable skills. A typical cover letter should be no more than one page long. Start with your name and contact details, and don’t forget to date the letter. Address your letter to the relevant person, rather than addressing it as ‘To whom it may concern’. To be effective, your cover letter should address three main issues, a paragraph for each:
A positive, formal introduction outlining:
- Basic information about yourself.
- Listing the documents you have enclosed (such as your CV, requested certificates).
- What do you know about the organization or how you learned about it.
- State the job vacancy (State the job you’re applying for, including the job ad reference number),how you learned of the vacancy (Advert in a newspaper, ad banner on the Internet etc.).
- In some cases, you may have been referred to a potential employer by a friend or acquaintance. Be sure to mention this mutual contact, by name, up front since it is likely to encourage your reader to keep reading.
- If no specific opening has been advertised be sure to state what your job objective is.
Outline why you are interested in the role and the organization and how the opportunity fits into your career aspiration.
Mention how your particular abilities and experiences relate to the position for which you are applying. Mention specific qualifications which make you a good fit for the employer’s needs. Emphasize your achievements and problem-solving skills.
Close the letter out positively and proactively. Re-emphasize your interest in the position and your availability for an interview. Indicate that you would like the opportunity to interview for a position. Make sure you list the various methods of contacting you and that all your contact information is accurate. State that you are willing to provide all further requested information. you may indicate that your references are available on request. Also, if you have work samples to support your qualifications, state their availability. You may want to include an extra paragraph to explain any personal circumstances such as an unemployed period or a career change. You may also state when you’re available to start work if you are selected. Finally, thank the employer and say you look forward to hearing from them soon.
Tips for writing a cover letter
- Be professional, warm and friendly.
- Be short and to the point (never go over one page).
- Avoid having the letter as generic.
- Be enthusiastic and assertive but not pushy. Do not be begging for a position.
- Keep it neat. Don’t send cover letters that are photocopied or marked.
- Use a basic font such as Arial or Times New Roman.
- Leave plenty of space around the edges of the page and clear space between each paragraph or section.
- Avoid using too many bolding, underlining and italicizing that can detract the reader from the real content.
- Make sure there are no grammatical mistakes and that the spelling is perfect.
- Write a rough draft first so that you can get your thoughts in order. Set it aside for a few minutes, get some fresh air, and take a walk. And then go back to refine the letter or add more details.
- Always get another person to read your letter before sending it to an employer
- Never use jargon if you can think of an everyday equivalent.
- If you address a name (e.g. “Dear Mr Smith”) end with “Yours sincerely”. If you address the letter as “Dear Sir or Madam” end with “Yours faithfully”.
If you are emailing your resume, I recommend pasting your cover letter into an email and just attaching your resume. There is no need to send a cover letter as an attachment, although you can if you wish. If you do this, name your cover letter and resume clearly, so that recruiters can see which is which. When you paste your letter into an email check to see how long it looks. If it looks too long to read at a quick glance, I recommend editing it down. We have all come to expect emails to be brief, so a long letter can be off-putting.
Despite that fact that some employers may not read cover letters, they remain an essential document in the job search. You have to write a great cover letter because you have to assume that some of the recipients will pay attention to it. Be sure to make yours as good as possible. At the end first impressions are everything, and this your chance to make a great first impression. If you grab the employer’s attention, convince them that you are passionate about the job vacancy, and prove that you love the company, you will most probably fill the vacancy.