How to Write a Cover Letter

If you’re new to job-seeking, cover letters may seem unnecessary to you. However, a well-composed cover letter helps you to stand out and capture the attention of the HR manager, prompting him to read your résumé to find out more about you.

By Everlyn Lee

A cover letter, as the name suggests, is a formal letter that you write to a potential employer in an attempt to position yourself as the ideal candidate for a job. It’s sent in together with the résumé and it’s usually the first thing the hiring manager reads. If you know who will be reading your letter, address it to him or her. If not, a “to whom it may concern” should suffice.

Feel free to let your personality show through this piece of composition; it’s probably the best place to do so since it can be tweaked exactly the right way for every job you apply for. Having said so, you are still advised to address three key areas, namely why you are writing, what makes you an ideal candidate and how you intend to follow up.

The purpose of the letter

First and foremost, the position that you are applying for must be apparent to the hiring manager. Hence, you may consider making it the header to your letter. After your initial greeting, state your purpose of writing the letter. If someone has referred you, say so and give the person’s name. Otherwise, let them know that you are responding to a job posting you saw online or in the newspaper. If you are sending the letter cold, it’s best if it reflects some research on the company and why you have an interest in that company.

What you have to offer

When you are replying to an advertisement, you have to specifically pinpoint your qualifications, qualities, skills and experiences that match well with the requirements they listed and are relevant to the position that you are applying for, albeit not in as much detail as your résumé. You have to be selective about what you write as you won’t want to waste that little amount of space you have! Always focus on what you can offer the company, not the other way round.

More importantly, this part should come from the heart. In other words, why are you writing to this company? What’s it got to do with what you do and who you are? It needn’t be a long introspective story - but if there’s something specific in the advertisement or about the company that appeals to you, speak to it. A genuine, sincere and real person behind the word gets noticed every time.

Your intended follow-up

In the closing paragraph, thank the hiring manager for considering your application and that you will greatly appreciate being granted an interview. Let them know how and when you intend to follow up and make sure you keep your word.

Also, do not forget to leave every piece of your contact information along with the best times to reach you. You want to be sure that when he is so impressed by your cover letter that he just has to call you for an interview, he doesn’t get frustrated looking for a phone number or email address!

There’s hardly a one-size-fits-all cover letter, so it’s best to customize a cover letter for each individual recipient. This will no doubt require more time and effort, but the attention to detail will definitely score brownie points for you in your job hunt. A cover letter that’s meant to be sent cold, for example, should look very different from one which is written in response to an advertisement.

In addition, you may want to prepare your résumé first as this will make writing a compelling cover letter a lot easier. Your résumé, after all, qualifies you and backs up what is written in your cover letter. Finally, remember always to convey your enthusiasm for the opportunity; the employer will appreciate your excitement and willingness.

Perform a final check before you send that letter out. Are there typos? Is the format correct? Do you have too much white space? All of these little things add up to making a memorable impression on the employer.

Don’t forget that your potential employer has to first get past the cover letter before he decides to read the résumé. If the former fails to impress, your qualifications, as great as they may be, just won’t get the recognition they deserve. Don’t overlook the importance of a cover letter, or your potential
employer may very well overlook you!

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