How to Customise Your Cover Letter to Different Organisations
By Loy Xingqi from ResumeWriter and Adrian Tan from CareerLadder
A cover letter is an introduction letter or email that is sent together with your resume in your job application. Most of us may have seen or know how to write a basic cover letter, but the key is tailoring your cover letter to the organisation you are applying for. Your cover letter is NOT about repeating what is in your CV!
Instead, it should be used as a tool to showcase aspects of yourself that cannot be displayed in the bullet style format of the resume – such as your personality, your enthusiasm for the job, and your best strengths.
1) Identifying with the Organisation
Before starting on the cover letter, it is important to match yourself to the right organisation. Working with an organisation that resonates with your values or career goals is important to performing well and enjoying your job. Going to work may already be a struggle for some, so it is worth your while to spend some time finding out what you truly want out of your job and which organisation aligns with your interest. A recommended simple exercise you can do is to draw two columns on a piece of paper, labeling them “Me” and “Them” respectively.
Next, write down keywords that describe yourself and what you want from your job. In the “Them” column, write down information about the organisation (this information can be derived from their company website, career portal, and job descriptions). Lastly, look back at your “Me” list and classify them into career goals, values, and personality traits. Link them to similar aspects in the company where possible and you can gauge how well you will fit in the organisation.
2) Understanding the Organisation
After you have selected a few organisations, read their job descriptions again and make sure you address each point. Just like answering questions in an exam, answering every bullet in the description is ideal because this leads to more ticks on their checklist.
However, avoid exaggerating or writing too much. Keep it simple. Use the exercise you have done earlier to inject keywords into your statements as you go along. Showing research beyond the job description would be a big bonus. The more examples you can give about yourself, the more relevant you will look to the organization. You can choose to direct them to specific parts of your CV for more factual information.
3) Knowing Who You Are Writing To
When we write in our applications to organisations, we often think that we are just writing to the “HR department” or “HR Manager”. But behind the screen, they are human beings who will appreciate a personal touch. Imagine receiving hundreds of cold emails every day from strangers, all of them addressed to some nameless “HR” representative. But if you happen to discover an email addressed personally to you, it will probably stand out amongst the rest. While I would not go as far as to say that it will get you hired, it will certainly grab the attention of the hiring manager or clerk and give them more motivation to give your email a read. An obvious way to find out who you are writing to would be to search online for their contact information.
Some companies or government websites have the information of their departments’ heads online. The Singapore Government Directory is also a good way to look for the right department to get in touch with if you are applying for jobs in the civil service. If you are being referred by a friend or ex-colleague, it may do you good to mention him or her as a point of reference. However, do seek permission from this person beforehand, as the hiring manager may approach them to know more about you.
4) Sell Something Unique about Yourself
As cliché as it sounds, the only thing that can truly set your application apart is yourself. What do you have to offer that is so original and outstanding that they just have to hire you? Think about what your friends, colleagues, and previous employers have said about you. Then write them down in succinct sentences that deliver both confidence and clarity.
Be direct and talk about why you want the job and how your unique skills can improve the organisation. If possible, you can even include something personal about yourself that is related to the organisation. For example, if you were applying to Apple, you can mention that you have only used iPhones since the first iPhone came out. This piques interest about you as a person, and it is not entirely irrelevant to your job. If you have a LinkedIn Profile, you may add a link at the bottom of your cover letter, but do make sure you spend some time updating it before you do. Think of it as another source of information for the employers get to know you better, such as your career interests or the events in the industry that you have attended.
About the Authors: This is a guest post from Loy Xingqi and Adrian Tan. Learn more about career-related articles and how to secure your next dream job by visiting them at ResumeWriter and CareerLadder respectively. CareerBuilder Singapore is the owner of JobsCentral.com.sg, one of Singapore's largest job and learning portals. Get a free career personality test and more career- and education-related articles at JobsCentral and JobsCentral Community. Alternatively, Like us on JobsCentral Facebook Page or Follow JobsCentral on Twitter for more career-centric content!