Let your cover letter be a beautiful ‘door’ leading to a nice ‘house’ – your resume.
A cover letter is an essential part of the job application package along with the resume. It should be a nice â€˜doorwayâ€™ that should grab instant attention and invite an employer or recruiter to have a look at the â€˜houseâ€™ beyond â€“ that is the resume â€“ in order to place you on his consideration list for the job.
‘WHAT’ You Are
A resume, as we all know, is â€˜WHATâ€™ you are as a cumulative result of your education and/or experience plus your skills and accomplishments over a period of time since you became job market worthy. It is, to put it very simply, a list of all the qualifications and achievements attained by a person.
‘WHY’ Are You Fit For a Job
The cover letter, on the other hand, gives you an opportunity to explain â€˜WHYâ€™ that list of achievements is relevant to the job you are applying to, and makes you the right person for the same. Your resume may largely be only static like a map of your qualifications gained over time, but a cover letter can and should â€˜converseâ€™ with an employer telling him about your suitability for the position applied. Also, the cover letter gives you a golden opportunity to let them know that you have been researching their organization and are ready to join them with an informed frame of mind.
So what goes into a cover letter?
A cover letter should be a one page introduction of yourself relevant to the job position and the organization you are applying to. Consider the following parts and write them according to your requirements:
As you know already, any good resume has a header declaring your name and contact information like your phone number and email. When a resume runs into the second page, the same header is again applied to the new page. Similarly, your one page cover letter should also have the same header as the one on resume describing your contact information for the sake of uniformity. Make sure to use the same fonts and styles for both the cover letter and resume, otherwise it would give an unprofessional and disjointed look.
Name & Address of Company
Just below your contact information, on the left hand side, put in the current date. Now, if you have been instructed to do so in the job ad, write down the name of the person you were told to after ‘ATTN:’ and any Job/Reference number (only if given) below that. Write down the name of the company and full address of the company you are applying to, after that. Give appropriate line spaces starting below header and between date and address etc.
This is where your research about the company can come into play. Many a times, job ads do not mention the name of the hiring person. You have to make a search of their website to find out who exactly does the hiring or at least someone at the head of their Human Resources department. Start your greeting with â€œDear Mr. (or Ms.) (NameOfTheRightPerson)â€. If you were unable to find such a name on the website, give them a call and ask. Else, a simple â€œDear Hiring Manager,â€ is perfect in most other circumstances.
Always, always avoid putting in â€œTo Whom It May Concernâ€ as it gives a sense of aloofness on your part and will almost certainly end up â€˜concerning no oneâ€™. Also avoid writing casual â€˜Hiâ€™ or â€˜Helloâ€™ as this is an official and professional communication and not addressed to your Facebook buddy.
Like mentioned above, you have only one page to make your case compelling to the hiring authority. So you will get a few opening lines plus two short but powerful paragraphs and a couple of closing lines to present your credentials.
Opening Lines Paragraph:
Start out by telling how you learnt about the job that you are applying to while tying in your suitability for the same, right at the outset. Show some excitement and eagerness in the opening lines so the reader gets interested in you right away. Be innovative and donâ€™t just state the obvious fact only that â€œI found your ad for so and so job in The Daily Newsâ€. On the other hand, you could show some enthusiasm by stating something along the lines of the following: â€œAfter having gained valuable experience in the â€˜xyz fieldâ€™ and also enhancing my job skills recently by completing a six month course in xyz, I found this great opening for a xyz position posted on your company website. I am writing to express my interest for this position and wish to tell you how my experience coupled with my newly gained knowledge would make me a suitable applicant.â€
Second Paragraph (About yourself):
Now, in succinct terms, start explaining how and why you are a suitable applicant that you earlier claimed to be, by outlining your relevant skills and accomplishments from previous experience and/or education. This is the place to give a specific example of something that you can quantify or that can be measured in numbers showing them that you are a proven achiever. Avoid making overkill and repeating word for word from your resume. But make sure to explain how you strongly relate to the position advertised. The goal here is to convince the employer that you are among the handful to be considered and short-listed for an interview call.
Third Paragraph (About them):
I always tell my clients that this part, if done right, might just be the deciding factor in your getting an interview call. In these lines, you have to bring forth the crux of what you have learnt about the company through your research on its background, and how you fit right into the slot. Nothing will get you in their good books better than knowing that you have been working hard on finding everything about them.
Explain how their work culture, rich past and bright future have excited you and that you are raring to join them. Remember, every one of us likes to hear (good) things about ourselves and companies are no different. But beware of using hollow flattering words and only use very genuine and progressive things that you learnt about them. If you can convey to them the genuine best of themselves and cite that as a strong reason for you to be eager to get employed with them, you are well on your way.
While closing your cover letter, your last lines should reflect a well placed hope and confidence and in no way reek of desperation. You and I know that you believe in yourself, and so should the hiring manager. So tell them that â€œI am looking forward to have an opportunity to discuss my qualifications in detail with you at your convenience as I am confident that I will be an asset to your company and this company would provide me with a perfect place to lead a productive work life.â€
It is always desirable to add something like, â€œThank you for your time and interestâ€ at the end. And then the most common sign off used at the bottom is â€œSincerelyâ€, which is in order as it imparts the right amount of respect due to the hiring manager. Leave some space after it to put your signature when you are sending the letter on paper, and then at the very bottom, put down your full name.