A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Writing a cover letter is a lot easier than writing a resume. Many freeze in front of a blank page, and struggle to come up with clever sentences and witty words. The harsh reality is that most employers don’t place too much value on the cover letter, and in some instances it may even go unnoticed, so don’t waste an excessive amount of time on it.
If you want to know how to write a cover letter, follow these simple steps, and you’ll see that there’s really nothing to it:
- Start with the appropriate salutation. If you don’t know the name of the person in charge of recruitment, you may use “to whom it may concern”, or a similar generic phrase.
- The first paragraph should include the job you’re applying for (don’t assume it’s already obvious, as people in charge of recruitment at big companies may deal with dozens of openings at the same time), and how you found out about it.
- Write one or two more paragraphs showing what makes you a suitable candidate, or, better yet, what makes you ideal for their requirements. Make sure it’s consistent with your resume, without repeating things that are already covered in the CV.
- Use the opportunity to clarify aspects that may not be fully covered for the resume; for example, if you’re willing to relocate for that job, or, even better, if you already know the town where you’re supposed to relocate, because you’ve lived there before, and so on.
- Let the potential employer know why you want to work for them, not why you want to quit your current job. The last thing you want is to leave the impression that you’re complaining about your position.
- If you have any future steps in mind, mention them in the closing paragraph – for example, if you plan to contact them again in the near future, to check on the status of your application.
- Provide your contact details.
- End with an appropriate closing, such as “thank you for your time”, “looking forward to hearing from you”, “sincerely”, and so on.
- Keep it short – a page at most, but usually half a page is more than enough.
- Use samples of cover letters to gain inspiration, but don’t send out generic templates. Prove that you have a real interest in getting that job by taking fifteen minutes to write a couple of paragraphs.
- Proofread and spell check two or three times before sending your cover letter. While it may otherwise go unnoticed, it can actually do more harm than good if it’s full of typos.
That’s pretty much everything there is to writing cover letters for most jobs. Of course, there are particularities, on a case by case basis. If you apply for a position in creative writing, you will try to showcase your talent in the two or three paragraphs of the letter. If the job ad included some specific key points that could not be addressed in the resume, you have the opportunity to do so now.
One of the most common mistakes among job hunters is to focus too much on the cover letter and too little on the resume. Don’t stress out about it, it’s not an essay and it won’t be graded; if you have something to say, just say it in your own words. If you can’t think of anything suitable to add, stress your most important skills and experience, and express your interest in working with the respective employer. If you are honestly ecstatic about the opportunity, and it’s the job you’ve always dreamed of, don’t be afraid to show it – within reasonable limits, of course. Keep the language professional, and avoid jargon, abbreviations, or, the worst thing of all, smileys.
How to Make a Cover Letter Stand Out
If you can mention a name that will make an impact, now it’s the time to do so. For example, if you and the respective hiring manager have some contacts in common, you may want to mention them (assuming they’re relevant, of course, and not just some friends that you’ve met over a beer a few years back). Also, if you have some references from a person of great interest in the respective area of employment, a true leader in the industry recognized by all those working in the same line, you may want to mention him or her specifically in the cover letter. Social networking websites, such as LinkedIn, can be of tremendous help in establishing mutual contacts, but don’t drop names of people you don’t really know, or who cannot back up your statements about your employment history.
Small Details that Make a Big Impact
When writing cover letters, it’s important to make sure they compliment the resumes perfectly. If you send out several applications, you may need to twitch the resumes for each of them, or, in certain cases, a single CV may fit all job descriptions, and you don’t need to make any adjustments. But, no matter how similar the jobs may be, never send generic cover letters, identical for all potential employers.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
It’s highly recommended to use the same style, font, and formatting for the both the CV and the cover letter, whenever possible. In certain cases, you will type the letter in an e-mail, while the resume will be sent as attachment, so it’s not possible to use the exact same formatting style. Even if the letter is just the body of an e-mail, make sure you spell check and proofread it two or three times, and double-check to see if it it contains all the details (your name and contact details, the name of the recipients, the right salutation and closing lines, and so on.)
The first cover letter is usually a pain to write, and you may spend a lot of time researching samples and reading models, but it gets easier quickly. Keep it honest, specific, and concise, and it will yield the best results. Avoid empty filler sentences as much as possible, but make sure you include keywords and power words that are related to the respective area of employment. And, most importantly, send it quickly, together with your resume: sometimes waiting for too long, in order to create that absolutely perfect letter, may cost you the job, as a less perfectionist candidate may have been accepted already.