Writing a cover letter can be a tricky ordeal. Whilst writing your CV is a question of choosing what content to put on, the cover letter has this plus the additional difficulty of striking the right tone and prose to impress your recruiter enough to call you for an interview.
Traditionally, your CV or Resume is attached with a cover letter. It varies in working culture which one of your cover letters or CV is read first. But one thing for sure is that the cover letter can serve as a useful complement to your CV, if not outright land you the position.
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself and explain why you are applying to the job, what makes you the ideal candidate for the job and how your experiences match what they are looking for in a candidate. You must personalise your cover letter for the job or company you send it too.
The cover letter also serves as a way to show that you can write in prose in the language of the application. Cover letters can demonstrate your ability to write a formal letter (a requirement in professional life). The difference between formal and informal english for example is sometimes vital in presenting yourself as someone the company can rely on when working on similar letters throughout your professional career. The ability to write a letter may have diminished in importance with the advent of emails, but these latter emails also require a great deal of attention to detail in your use of language.
They can also demonstrate your ability to use industry jargon and understand the working culture and processes required to do the job. Make sure you use such jargon to demonstrate that you have an understanding of their sector.
What are the 3 types of cover letters?
Your cover letters can sometimes vary in goals and size though. Some cover letters, for example for a university or doctorate program, will really highlight your motivations and academic background.
- Your application cover letter is the main one we talk about in this article. It is usually accompanied by a CV and sent to a recruiter for a specific job posting.
- A prospecting cover letter is a more general letter that is sent as a spontaneous application to a company with no specific job advertised or in mind. By contrast, this type of cover letter application really focuses on the company and your willingness to work for them rather than your skills matching the job position.
- E-mail introductory cover letter : this type of cover letter does not have the length or familiar structure of the previous too. It is also but in the email body you will send. However, its tone can be just as important. Making sure you have a concise but attention-getting email that briefly sums up what would
What do I write in a cover letter?
Your cover letter should be around 3-4 paragraphs. These correspond to around 3 steps needed in a cover letter.
- The first is introducing yourself and explaining how you know about the job, using the specific job title and the company’s name to personalise it.
- The middle section (1-2 paragraphs) details how your previous experiences are ideal for the job at hand
- The last section sums up your motivations and opens the door for further contact.
Make sure each section links up to the next section in a flowing way.
How do I sell myself in a cover letter?
Listing your achievements rather than just job positions is one good way to stand out. Another is demonstrating an ability already to understand the organisation you are applying to, whether it is describing your specific role and how previous work experiences gave you the tools to do it, or if you are a graduate what soft skills you have.
Distinguishing yourself from the others in your cover letter can sometimes mean employing original techniques. Starting in a direct manner, as if writing a brief, can sometimes be more advantageous if you feel there are so many other applicants that the recruiters are unlikely to read formal prose.
One of the key aspects of your cover letter is making sure you sound confident and competent without coming across as arrogant or over-confident. This is done by showing your willingness to learn as much as your ability to produce what is expected of you. Be honest if you lack a certain set of technical skills but turn it into a positive by alluding to achievements that show you are capable of learning. For example, if the job requires Python programming and you know only the alternative R, don’t boast about your Python skills without foundation : just say what concepts you have learned and executed with R and how you are excited to try out a new programming language.
What should not be included in a cover letter?
Your cover letter should not just be your CV or Resume only written in prose. It should seek to link what is on your CV and Resume.
Spelling and grammar mistakes are a no-no. The cover letter will be especially important in this respect compared to your CV. Your cover letter is often taken as a gauge of your level of language that you write your cover letter in. Have your cover letter reviewed by peers so that you are sure no mistakes have been made. This is especially the case if you write it in a non-mother tongue language.
You should also only put your salary requirement or expectations if the employer specifically asks for these within the cover letter. Even then, it’s better to forget about the salary requirements than to include them without being asked.
Finally, have your cover letter read and re-read by friends, family or better yet professionals who can help you understand what is exactly required. Do not though have it re-read by your current employer unless confident that there is no conflict of interest in them knowing about you applying for other jobs.