- Generic Cover letter: Can be used as a general inquiry into an available position at a company you would like to work at, where you see yourself being a good fit for their culture.
- Targeted Cover letter: Should be directed to the specific job you are applying for, matching the keywords and phrases of the job description, or as used in the job advert.
This is the place to show your knowledge of the company – you should really have done some research before you apply. Perhaps you already know someone who works there and you have inside knowledge of their culture. Express enthusiasm for the job and the company and make sure all your communication with them is professional.
In a targeted cover letter, you get the opportunity to introduce yourself to a prospective employer, showcase your specific knowledge, skills, and abilities and how you can add value to the company – in the specific job you are applying for.
- Ask yourself: Why am I writing this letter? To whom am I writing? What goal do I want to achieve?
- You don’t have to rewrite the cover letter for every application – just rearrange and restructure it to fit the details of the job opportunity. Remember to change the following: the title of the position, name of company, name & title of the contact person for each job.
- Look at the job advertisement: what keywords and descriptors do they use, what qualifications do they list as essential and which desired skills are the company asking for? Use the same terminology and point out how your knowledge, skills, abilities, and qualifications match the business needs. In this way, the person reading the letter can easily see why they should go on to read your CV and why you could be a suitable candidate.
- Cover letters should be one page or less – only use it to highlight your unique suitability for the position as advertised. You can elaborate once you have your first interview.
- Make sure your letter is error-free, check the spelling and grammar meticulously while writing. Double check before you send it out. Absolutely print out a copy and have someone else read it too. Sometimes we miss our own mistakes.
- Write like a human being and don’t use too many ‘important sounding’ words. Let your personality show in your writing. That said, don’t be weird! Don’t be over creative and write something wacky or goofy. It is not professional.
- Use the letter wisely, try to understand what is acceptable and what is not in the culture of the company where you are applying. If it has a fun and creative culture, like Google, you might get away with some creative use of wordplay. If you applying to a law firm, this won’t work in your favour. Be sensible.
6 MUST HAVE FIELDS:
- Contact details
- The greeting
- Pitch and prove yourself
- Signing off
- Contact Details:
Your name, address, phone number, email, and LinkedIn. (Having a LinkedIn profile should really not be optional, even for young graduates just getting into the job market. Most larger corporates have the option for you to apply directly with your profile on their career sites.) The date and the name of the hiring manager or contact person, company address, phone number and hiring manager’s email address.
Don’t use the generic To whom it may concern. This doesn’t show that you have done your research and found out who is in charge of hiring new personnel. If you don’t know who that is, the Department Manager’s name will also be a good choice, they will likely be involved in hiring new staff and using their name will show that you have put in some effort. Always try and use a real person’s name, but if you can’t find one, then use Hiring Manager.
- Introduce yourself:
Your name is already in the contact details at the top, so you don’t have to start with “My name is…”. Rather use an introductory statement like:
I’m writing to apply for the new and exciting role at (company name).
I am glad to have the opportunity to apply for the (job title) at (company name).
Use this first paragraph to show what value you can bring to the company. Highlight your specific skills and abilities and why you think the opportunity is interesting. Be passionate about your desire to work for the company and focus on what you can offer them, not what they can offer you. Relate your previous work experience to the company and list your transferable skills. There is always something that you can use in the new position.
- Pitch and prove yourself:
The hiring manager needs to see proof you can actually do the job. Include some of your achievements and career highlights in this part to show your skillset is exactly what they are looking for. Stay away from generic terms like “Quick learner”, “team player”, “highly motivated”, etc. Be precise and quantify your achievements e.g. “increased sales by 10%” or “Won an award for the best Customer Service over a period of 6 months”. Strive to be very clear in showing how you can add value to the business. Use the specific wording as it appears in the job advert. If they use “communications expert” you should also use this and not something else like “marketing guru”.
If you have done your homework on researching the company you should be able to show exactly how your skills can help achieve the companies’ business goals. This is your final chance to show how you can add value, and also demonstrate that you are excited to be a part of the company.
- Signing off:
Let them know you are available for an interview, and remember to thank the person for reading your cover letter. E.g. “Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions. Feel free to reach me at …enter you preferred contact method, whether email or phone. I look forward to hearing from you. Examples of good greetings: Regards, Best regards, Warm regards, Kind regards, Sincerely or All the best.
I hope this has helped you get a better understanding of writing a good cover letter!