A cover letter is a document that introduces you to the person tasked to qualify candidates or proposals to the company or organization. It is usually attached to another document such as a Curriculum Vitae, company profile or business proposal. The cover letter is alternatively referred to as a Letter of Introduction, Letter of Intent or Letter of Motivation.
The cover letter is basically a short summary of your skills and experience. It should not circumvent the attached documents which have greater detail. The purpose of the cover letter is to generate interest from the recipient that he or she would be compelled to initiate progressive action.
In essence, the cover letter is your marketing collateral. It is the first document that establishes a relationship between you and the recipient. Remember even in business first impressions count. Thus, you must put thought and effort in crafting your cover letter because it does not only share insights on your skills and experience. The cover letter also shows the addressee how you communicate.
The Different Types of Cover Letters
A cover letter can be customised to suit your purpose and meet your needs. There are generally three types of cover letters:
- The Application Letter. This type of cover letter is what you prepare when you are applying for an opening for a job in a company, a position in an organization or entry into a program.
- The Prospecting Letter. This type of cover letter has the intent of presenting the services of a company or a business proposal. The intent can be one of establishing a strategic partnership or a client – service provider arrangement.
- The Networking Letter. This type of cover letter seeks to find information if there are availabilities in positions or if in the context of finding business, a need for a specific scope of services. Your intent is to solicit details and information pertinent to landing an association with the recipient.
Before writing a cover letter, determine your purpose for writing one. How you construct and create content may determine how far your proposal or application would go.
Keep in mind that the cover letter may determine whether you will move on in the process and secure the all – important job interview. Or have your resume end up in their 201 file.
Take the time to review the approach to writing an effective cover letter. It could bring you closer to the job of your dreams.
How to Write a Cover Letter
The cover letter is a letter of introduction. It should only summarize the key points in your application. These key points are the pieces of information that would attract notice from the addressee or the person designated to review your application.
Here are a few guidelines when writing a cover letter:
- It must be kept short. Ideally, the cover letter should only be one page long consisting of 3 to 4 paragraphs.
- It should be concise. Recruiters do not spend too much time scrutinizing details on the cover letter. Establish your purpose and intent right away; the address should know what you want from the get go.
- Its content should be customized. Highlight skills that are relevant to the job opening. Recruiters are very good in scanning content for keywords.
When writing a cover letter view it from the perspective of determining how your skills and experience would benefit the company or organization. A cover letter should lend more substance to your resume without circumventing its content. It is complementary and should not undermine your overall value proposition.
An effective cover letter should cover the following key areas of interest:
- Define the job or position you are applying for.
- Inform the addressee how you found out about the job opening.
- Identify any referrer or associate who has a connection to the addressee’s organization.
- Specify the experience(s) that validate your qualification for the position. You can summarize this with one or two sentences or use bullet points.
- Identify the skills that are relevant to the job opening.
- State why you are the best qualified person for the job without sounding arrogant or presumptuous.
Finally, always express gratitude for considering your application for the job. An appreciative closing statement sends the message to the recruiter that you are considerate of the work they put in scrutinizing every job applicant.
The Basic Structure of the Cover Letter
Given the aforementioned varied points of interest, in order to get these across successfully within a protracted format you should follow the basic structure of a cover letter:
The cover letter should always begin with the date the cover letter was submitted and information about you and the addressee. The information should include the following details:
Name – First Name / Middle Initial / Last Name
You should include information on your LinkedIn address and Twitter account. Recruiters are very particular about these two social media accounts especially LinkedIn. Make sure the details in your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles are the same as the Curriculum Vitae.
Address the recipient according to the appropriate title or designation. Make sure the name is written completely. If you are not sure of the name of the recipient, do some research to find out his or her identity.
The salutation is your formal greeting to the recipient of the cover letter. It should always be formal in tone regardless if you know the person directly. The standard format is “Dear Mr./Ms. “ followed by the last name.
If for example the name of the person is gender neutral such as “Jamie Smith”, place the complete name after the greeting such as “Dear Jamie W. Smith,”.
If you do not know the name of the addressee and your research does not yield any confirmation, you can just state, “Dear Recruitment Manager,”.
3. The Body of the Cover Letter
This is where your cover letter should focus most of its substance. Recruiters will often go to the body right away to determine your value proposition. The body of the cover letter generally has three parts:
The Introduction. The introduction plays a very important part in that this is where you can immediately grab the attention of the addressee.
State the reason for the cover letter by indicating your purpose. If you are sending the cover letter to support a job application, indicate the job position you want. If the cover letter is a business proposal, indicate right away your intent.
You should also inform the addressee how you found out about the job opening.
The introduction is also where you can indicate a contact person or a connection that may have an important association with your addressee.
A connection can become an important component of your application especially if he or she has a good relationship or holds a measure of influence with the company.
The Main Body. This is where you include the important information on your experience, expertise and skill set. As mentioned earlier, you should not go into great detail on what you could do for the organization.
Instead within one to two paragraphs, give a succinct summary of the relevant aspects of your curriculum vitae. A good approach would be to pinpoint details from the job post and use these as reference points for your qualification.
For example, if you are applying for a job as Sales Manager and the job post states the company is looking for people who are “dynamic and experienced in leading a team of achievers to reach their quota”, you can reference your latest employment and state a particular experience which showed you ability to manage a sales team.
It is always advisable to include statistics, figures and other numbers that support your experience. It should tell the addressee how you made a difference in the success of your company.
Lastly, do not attempt to “sugar coat” your qualification. Recruiters are highly experienced when it comes to reviewing content of cover letters. This is an activity they do every single day of the work week. It is a combination of technical expertise and intuition that tells a recruiter if your experience is truthful.
Recruiters will not hesitate to contact your stated employer to find out the veracity of your claim. Sugar coating the truth is never the truth. It is still lying and will do your application more harm than good.
Closing. At the end of your cover letter, you should always close by expressing hope that your application would be given due consideration. It is very important that you do not appear overly confident of your opportunities of making if further along.
There is a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Recruiters prefer candidates who are confident of their skills and experience but these have to be ably substantiated by evidence not just be rhetoric.
You should also express your well – wishes to the addressee and the company. Let the addressee know that you appreciate taking time to read your cover letter and that regardless of the outcome you are wishing the organization continued success in the years ahead.
Signature and Biddings
As a way to complement your salutation, end the cover letter by bidding or sending good tidings to your addressee.
Among the formal biddings or good tidings are as follows:
- Very Truly Yours,
- Sincerely Yours,
- Respectfully Yours,
- Truly Yours,
- Kind Regards,
- Warm Regards,
- Best Regards,
Type your complete name at the bottom, left – hand side then sign over it with a black signature pen.
Last but certainly not the least, always proof read your cover letter for grammar and spelling errors before printing it out.
The Format of a Cover Letter
The cover letter must not only look professional, it should also be easily readable. When preparing a cover letter, take note of the following details:
- Font Style. Recruiters prefer any of the three font styles: Times New Roman, Calibri or Arial. Do not use any fancy font style such as Algerian, Bauhaus 93 or Harlow Super Italic.
- Font Size. IF you are using Times New Roman, font size 12 would do. For Calibri or Arial, font size 13 would be readable.
- Alignment. Many applicants use Left Align format largely because orientation when reading a document is left to right. But Justified alignment is also acceptable. Justified makes the page look cleaner and more organized.
- Margins. There should be 1” margin all around the document.
Today many recruiters and applicants have put to question the value of the cover letter. Some recruiters have expressed their opinion that they do not bother with the cover letter and prefer to proceed directly with the Curriculum Vitae and other attachments.
The popular criticism with the cover letter is that it lacks purpose and creativity. Many applicants just send standard format cover letters and cut and paste these to include the details of the recipient.
Again, remember these recruiters come across hundreds of applications every day many of which have cover letters. It is very easy for them to pick out which cover letters are the same as others. When this happens the cover letter becomes a detriment to the applicant.
Customize the cover letter to fit the needs, specifications of the job and the company. The recruiter may thank you for it by scheduling you for the first interview.
Sample Cover Letter
Mr. Raymond J. McAllister
91-B Joielane Street
New York City, New York
5 May 2016
Mr. Eduard V. Robinson
Human Resources Manager
ABC Sales and Marketing Inc.
New York City, New York
Dear Mr. Robinson,
I am writing to express my interest in applying for the position of Sales Manager as published in the 1st May 2016 issue of the New York Journal. The job posting was presented to me by Mr. Nathan W. Young whose company has been a longstanding client of your esteemed company.
I noted in the job description that you are looking for a candidate who can grow your brand in new distribution channels. In my current position as Sales Director for YYZ Merchandising Corporation, I have posted two (2) consecutive years of growth averaging 10.4% every year. In 2015, I was assigned to develop the business in New Castle. Today, New Castle posts the 2nd highest gross sales for the company at US$12,000,000.
I believe I have the technical and fundamental skills needed for implementing marketing programs and attaining sales quotas. Most of all, I have the confidence, focus and determination to contribute to the success of ABC Sales and Marketing Inc.
Thank you for taking time to review my papers. I wish your company continued success in the years ahead.
I remain hopeful my application shall merit your consideration and favorable approval.
Very truly yours,
Raymond J. McAllister
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