Back To The Basics: Writing A Cover Letter

When asked to send your resume to an email address in order to apply for a job, do you just attach the resume to an empty email and hope for the best? Or do you take your time to think up three paragraphs that would get the recruiter to download your attachment and read our resume?

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The cover letter is a way to make a good first impression on your interviewer. You want to catch the recruiter’s attention and immediately get an advantage over other applicants. The vast majority of resumes go unread because the applicant did not include a great cover letter.

In writing a cover letter, it is important to understand what the recruiter is looking for. Read the advertisement well or get more information about the position so that you can better adapt your cover letter to be suitable for the role.

Which skills, qualifications and experiences do you have that fit into the position? Think about that and ensure you highlight those. You should always look at your written cover letter from the viewpoint of an employer trying to choose between many candidates. Let the cover letter show the employer how you can add value if employed for that role. If your qualifications are not an exact fit, then mention just why you think you would be able to succeed if employed.

A cover letter should be brief. We live in an attention deficit world and with hundreds of competing resumes to read, you should not bore your recruiter. One page is enough to entice the recruiter to read your resume.

If possible, always address your cover letter to a specific person. Do the extra work to find the name of the recruiter/HR personnel. The cover letter would get more attention if it is addressed to a real human being rather than a “To whom it may concern”.

A cover letter should be 4-5 paragraphs long at most. In the first paragraph, state your qualifications and/or why you feel you are suited for the role. Give the employer a clear reason why you should be invited for an interview. Indicate a specific reason why you want to work for the company and state how you are going to provide value.

In the next 1-3 paragraphs (ideally two), include specific examples of situations where you have done great work and state how you would use that experience to succeed in the new role. Make sure you read the advertisement and tailor the examples you are making to address the competencies the recruiter is looking for.

In the concluding paragraph, you should thank the recruiter for your time and indicate your availability for further discussion on the role. Check for spelling mistakes and grammar errors. Finish the cover letter on a positive tone.

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