Cover Letters

As per a comment on an ealier post, I missed one section of the application process – your cover letter. This is perhaps the most significant part of your application, and yet, it often recieves the least attention. A well-written cover letter can make the difference between getting a job and not even reaching the interview room. I will attempt to answer here the question: what makes one cover letter better than the next?

Most applications consist of two parts: a resume or CV which outlines your professional experience, and a cover letter, which outlines you, as related to the position in question. For the resume, there are standard components: work experience, education, certifications, and so on. For the cover letter, the guidelines are less clear. Beyond the formatting, which, of course, should be in the same style as your resume, and the spelling and grammer, which should be correct, there are few rules about what goes into a cover letter.

  1. Customize: A cover letter should be drafted for each and every application you make. Even if the titles of the position are the same, or you are applying for two different positions at the same company, the cover letter for each application should be unique. Of course, some of the content will overlap, but each should be written on its own.
  2. Concise: A cover letter does not have to be a long treatise on your life story, and in fact, should not exceed a single page. Recruiters don’t want to sift through huge amounts of data to get at the real information, and they don’t have time to read through every essay that crosses their path. If your letter is relatively brief, it has a higher chance of being read to completion.
  3. Informative: Use the cover letter as a way to show that you have researched the position you are applying for. Talk about some of your skills that would make you an ideal candidate. Highlight relevant experience you have that would be of benefit to the position.
  4. Make a Sale: Talk about how the company would benefit by hiring you, not about how you will benefit from being hired. Convince them that they have a need for you, not the other way around.
  5. Interest: What gave you the incentive to apply for the position? Did you come across a posting on a job board? Did a friend recommend the company? Did you read about them in the paper?