Writing a cover letter is more art than science but there is a method to the madness.
As discussed on a previous article, a cover letter is a letter sent with your resume and portfolio to provide additional information on your skills and experience when you’re applying for a job. Often enough however, the cover letter is underrated and (in some cases) dispensed with altogether.
An applicant who does this, do so at their own peril.
A cover letter allows a potential employer to learn more about you which is simple enough but a well-written cover letter provides the necessary information while making a case as to why you’re the perfect person for the job. In an increasingly competitive job market, I’m sure you’ll agree that you need all the advantage you can get.
A cover letter typically has four parts:
The standard format for I follow when providing my personal contact details is this: name, title, company, address, phone/mobile numbers, and email. I follow the same rule for the addressee but I leave off the phone/mobile numbers and email.
You may also choose to add additional details such as links to your online portfolio and/or website, if you feel it is relevant to the job you’re applying for. You can also include your Social Media accounts if their content helps you project a more professional image. If not however, it’s probably best not to include it as it may inadvertently paint a bad picture of you.
First and foremost, when talking about your skills and experience, make sure to relate it all to the requirements of the job in question. Only after establishing a clear relationship between yourself and the job should you start speak speaking about your professional persona (i.e., who you are as a professional), touching upon your particular work ethic, and what you hope to achieve professionally in the long term.
It’s also very important to take the time to find out more about the company and what it does to help you craft a better targeted cover letter.
This is the part that you enumerate (yes, there should be more than one) the reasons why the company should hire you. Avoid the urge to put in something generic such as “I am a hard worker” and “I love overtime”. Instead, figure out what you bring to the table that other candidates do not.
Take this for example: the basic requirement for a Graphic Designer is the ability to design and the knowledge of a graphic application program. More often than not, Graphic Designers work a lot with photographs and a knowledge of photography, even a basic one, will give you an edge over other candidates who have no prior experience working with pictures.
The Call to Action
A Call to Action (CTA) is intended to induce a reader to perform a specific act, typically taking the form of an instruction or directive. Successful sales representatives have long recognized that specific words and phrases elicit desirable responses and this is what you are, in this particular instance. You are a sales representative and the product you’re selling is yourself.
You improve your chance of furthering your application process and getting some face time with the Hiring Manager by including CTAs such as “get in touch with me” or “send me an email”.
Things to Remember
Here are a few other things that you shouldn’t forget:
- Avoid generic cover letters and always tailor your cover letters for the job you’re applying for.
- Keep your cover letter under one page and use a sensible font (Sans Serif is my preference) with a legible size (between 11-12 points is your best bet).
- Double check your letter for typos and grammatical errors (or ask a friend to do it for you).
Let’s be realistic: you’re not going to get better overnight writing cover letters.
The tips I just gave you will help improve your game but it’s going to take practice. It will take time, some effort, and could be tedious on occasions but I do know that you can’t afford not to include one in your submission.
A cover letter is simply part of a professional application and must not be left out.
A well-written cover letter will help open doors for you, however.
I know it did for me.