I recently had a fresh graduate email me his resume to be recommended to someone I know. And to my utter shock, I got a “thank you :)” as a cover letter! Well, anything that accompanies your resume is a cover letter – even if it is just 2 words and a smiley! So understand what a cover letter is and how important it can be in landing you that job.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a precursor to your resume. It expresses your intent to apply for a particular job. It is like talking to your employer about your candidature. Even before looking at your resume, your cover letter gives a fair idea about your communication skills, structure in writing, your reasons for applying and the skills you have to offer.
How you write your cover letter is critical to whether your resume will be looked at or not. Hence, it is an important part of your candidature.
Why write a cover letter?
Your cover letter will be different depending on the purpose of your letter. The most common one are application cover letters where you express your intent to apply for a job.
You could also be writing a prospecting cover letter when you are writing hoping you will get a call when there is a position vacant for you. Or for networking where you mention your credentials and hope that the employer can work with you sometime in the future for mutual benefits. Or asking for an internship. Figure out your purpose and write one accordingly.
Here are a few tips to ensure you get your cover letter right:
1. Customise/personalise it
Write a fresh cover letter for every job you apply. Even if the profile is the same, there will be a something unique about every offer. For instance, specify if you viewed the job on Linked in or whether you are writing in response to the employer’s mail to you asking for your profile.
The person you are writing to will also be different each time you write. You may write to the HR manager in one cover letter and to a placement agency in another. Your approach will differ accordingly.
2. Keep it short
Remember that a cover letter is just an introduction. It should be long enough to convince the employer to look into your resume but short enough to be scanned in one go. It cannot launch into the details of your experience and expectations. You could look at 2-3 paragraphs to explain your intent and purpose.
3. Include contact information
End your cover letter with details like your email id or phone number where the employer can contact you. Make sure that you are reachable at the info you provide. No point leaving your landline number where you may not be available all the time to answer the call.
4. Watch your subject line
When you email your cover letter, subject line is critical in grabbing the reader’s attention. Only then will your cover letter will be read and in return convince the employer to open your resume. Keep the subject line specific and precise. 2-4 words is ideal, indicating the gist of your intent.
5. Proof read
Like I have already said here, always proofread anything you write before you send. Check for grammar, typos, spelling mistakes, sentence structure and meaning it conveys. Read and re-read to make sure everything is perfect. There are no second chances in life!
Keep these tips in mind the next time you write a cover letter.
Suggested activity: Write a rough draft of a 2-para cover letter telling the employer why you should be hired.