The First Impression
While the résumé may list all your strengths and abilities, the cover letter gives your potential employer a first glimpse at your character, and at times may be what clinches the employer’s preference for you above other applicants. It is also the means for you to ask for – and secure – an interview with the employer.
What to Put into Your Cover Letter
A cover letter should basically answer the question: ‘Why should I hire you?’ That’s why you should always personalise each and every cover letter you write.
You should always personalise – or even rewrite – your cover letters for each job position or company that you apply to.
Your cover letter should include the following details in a single A4-sized page:
- Quote the job or position you are applying for and where you heard or read about the job.
- Keep your self-introduction brief as the employer can get more details about you from your accompanying résumé.
- Ensure you highlight all your key achievements, experience, skills or personality traits in relation to the job advertised.
- Keep the length of the cover letter to one page. Use easy-to-read fonts such as Times New Roman (12pt) or Arial (11pt) in black ink.
- Ask a trusted friend, family member, career advisor or mentor to read through your draft letter to check for spelling or grammatical errors and to suggest improvements where possible.
- Use good quality white paper to print your cover letter and résumé. Ensure that they are smudge-free as you want to give the best impression possible.
- If you are sending the application by snail mail, don’t forget to sign the letter before sending it out.
A cover letter is still essential. However, it should be sent as the body of the email with your résumé enclosed as an attachment. State the job you are applying for in the ‘subject’ of the email. Also, save your résumé with your name as the filename and don’t forget to attach it to the email. It is also highly recommended that you use an email account with your full name to appear more professional.
Covering All Bases
Here is a 10-step guide on how to write an effective cover letter.
- Always address the hiring manager by name. If you don’t know the person’s name, find out the name and designation by checking the company website or calling up the department.
- Ensure you state the position you are applying for. The company may be advertising more than one position – don’t force the person reviewing your application to guess what you are applying for!
- Start by introducing yourself briefly and where you found out about the job vacancy. State also if you would like to be considered for similar positions in the company.
- Elaborate on why you are interested in the field or industry. Make it formal yet personable.
- Briefly explain how your education and any work experience make you suitable for the job.
- Mention any internships or other working experience, if any.
- Explain briefly how these experiences and qualifications have helped in developing the skills or personality traits required to perform the job being advertised.
- Lead the hiring manager to your résumé and make a formal request for an interview.
- Maintain the polite tone of your message by thanking the hiring manager in advance for his or her time.
- End the letter with your name printed at the bottom and a signature if you are preparing a hard copy application.