What to Include in a Cover Letter
The cover letter serves as the first introduction to an employer, and it is an opportunity to convey one's viability as a strong candidate as well as one's ability to communicate in a polished, professional manner. It notes the specific position targeted while showcasing relevant qualifications the job seeker has to offer. In addition, it allows a job seeker to further explain any unusual circumstances in his or her background (e.g., gaps in employment, a return to the workforce, or change in career focus), demonstrate professionalism, and attract an interview.
With this in mind, it is best to ensure the cover letter aligns with common expectations by limiting it to one page and addressing a specific individual whenever possible. Include the company name and the recipient's name and title. Even when applying to a blind ad or box number one can use the ad information to personalize a cover letter.
A well-written, employer-centric cover letter will typically consist of three main parts: the introduction, the body, and the closing (which ends with a compelling action or request).
The introduction: Whenever possible, indicate how you came to apply to the company, such as...
- responding to an advertised opening
- having identified the company through research (do not use this if you didn't do the research as it may be obvious to the employer)
- reading about the company or its executives in a publication
- receiving a referral from John Jones at XYZ company
The body: It is important to highlight your qualifications and strengths as they relate to the requirements of the position. Amplify or augment information contained in your resume (rather than merely repeating it) and include a few strengths or personal qualities.
The closing: If the position was unadvertised and the resume is unsolicited, indicate that you will follow up in a few days. If you are responding to an advertised position, indicate you are looking forward to the opportunity to discuss how you can contribute to the success of the organization.
It is important to balance the tone of your cover letter. You want to be professional yet cautiously assertive. While a resume does not conform to standard writing styles (e.g., using personal pronouns, articles, and complete sentences), a cover letter does! Lastly, remember to focus on the employer's needs rather than your own (e.g., indicate what skills you will bring to the position to get the job done, rather than what you expect the employer to do for you).
While we all know that a resume is important to the jobsearch process, it is not necessarily the most important document you will need to secure an interview.
Many people believe that a strategically targeted cover letter is the most important weapon you need to fight this battle and to win it. There are two key reasons why.
- The cover letter allows you to target the job and the employer in a very specific way, leaving the resume to market your skills, qualities and experience as a part of the bigger picture. Your resume then needs less tweaking with each application because the letter, which must be different each time, does that for you.
- A great cover letter should not just repeat your resume in a shorter form, but should tell the employer what it is about the job that is attractive to you and why you want to work for that employer. You will also need to include the unique skills and the qualities you bring to that job and the company.
Writing a killer cover letter is not a simple task. It requires thought, knowledge and understanding
Many employers and recruiters read the letter first. Some will not even consider your resume until they are satisfied by the content of your letter. So it is a very important document.
- You will need to do research on the employer and the job before writing the letter
- It will need to be written in an engaging style using keywords applicable to the job
- In the letter you will need to show that you have made the effort to learn about their company by acquiring relevant knowledge before going to the interview, if you are chosen.
So what do you do if the employer is not disclosed in the job advert? Well the letter still has to be written specifically to the job addressing the key requirements stated and your enthusiasm needs to shine through. No letter can just say "here is my resume", not if you want an interview. You will need to convey:
- I have reviewed your website and understand your business
- You are my employer of choice
- I believe my personality fits with your organisational culture (providing it does)
- I really want to work for an organisation with your values
These all help to sell "your fit" with their organisation. At Successful Resumes we believe the cover letter needs as much attention and skill in the preparation as your resume.
If you need help with your cover letter please visit our website here likewise if you require a free assessment of your resume or advice on government selection criteria go to our website. One of our national team of highly qualified and experienced writers will be available to work with you to ensure you have the best chance of winning the interview to kick start or reignite your career.
By John Little Managing Director of Successful Resumes Australia - visit us at www.successfulresumes.com.au