Erik Larson writes about the job market, resume improvement, and career advice
You may have the perfect resume and more than enough relevant experience and measurable achievements for a job position, but you may still get rejected if you have a poor cover letter. Unfortunately, many people forget or ignore the cover letter when they apply online, when in fact it could be used to separate them from the field.
Despite the fact that most people send job applications online, a majority of HR executives, recruiters, and managers still place importance on the cover letter. It makes perfect sense too; a cover letter is a great way to attract the reader’s attention to the most relevant parts of your resume and candidacy. It also shows that you are interested in the company and have taken the time to study the company and write a relevant cover letter. Most of you may be unfamiliar with cover writing standards, so here are some tips to start:
1. Follow the standard formal letter format
Write your cover letter in the format of a standard business letter. Address it to the specific contact within the company. Most job ads list the contact, but you can still find the contact by calling the company directly. If the contact’s name is difficult to pronounce, make sure that you get the correct spelling. Use the contact’s last name with a Mr. or Ms. Instead of his/her first name. You can use the first name once you have personally talked to the contact and have used his/her first name in conversation.
2. Get to the point
Skip the courtesy introduction and get to the point right with the opening sentence. Introduce yourself and announce the purpose of the cover letter. If you are applying to a position that someone has referred to you, mention his/her name in the first sentence. If you found the position on a website or publication, mention it in your introduction.
3. Show that you know the company
Do some quick research about the company and work out some facts about it that are not common to everyone in your first paragraph. It shows that you are committed enough to have done some homework.
4. Explain your situation briefly
Did you just graduate from a course or professional program? Are you working a full-time job? Can you join the company immediately? Clarify your current situation in two short sentences so that recruiters know where you are coming from.
5. Explain your interest
Mention in a few brief sentences why you are interested in the job opening. Use this space to mention what you can do for the employer and the skills you bring to the table. Talk about the most relevant skills and experiences you have; it could be anything from a full-time role to an internship in the same industry.
6. Focus on the key points
Choose two or three key points to focus that will entice readers to read your resume. Give some important details about these points in your cover letter. At the same time, avoid copying your resume and write original content. Your cover letter should increase the reader’s interest in your resume, and not repeat the same points.
7. Get someone to review the cover letter
Proofread your cover letter two to three times and use spell-check to correct typos, spelling mistakes, and poor grammar. Ask a friend to read it and check if it flows well. Remember that even the smallest mistakes can annoy recruiters and HR managers.