HOW TO WRITE A KILLER COVER STORY TO LAND YOUR DREAM JOB
If you have recently applied for a job, you would have most likely come across the ‘Add Cover Letter’ section. In today’s job market, it is no longer sufficient to have a detailed and well-written resume. More often than not, a typical job posting will receive several applications, perhaps equally qualified. The cover letter gives the employer an opportunity to get to know their candidates better and whittle down the number of applicants to the few candidates that will be invited for an interview.
How can you stand out from the multitude of applications sent in for your dream job? We will be discussing at a few Dos and Don’ts in this article.
Don’t use a blanket cover letter for every single job you apply to.
Let’s face it… that action reeks of pure laziness.
Remember that your cover letter conveys a ‘first impression’ about who you are to the employer. You do not want to be so bland and common in this highly important piece of communication.
To write an outstanding cover letter, DO pay close attention to the job advertisement, especially the skills, duties and responsibilities listed out in the job advertisement. Look at the job advertisement as the prototype candidate that the employer is looking for, and then tailor your listed skills and experience to fit into these requirements.
I know how frustrating and time consuming it is to prepare a separate cover letter for every single job, trust me, I have been there. In the last three years of my life, I am sure that I must have applied to more than 200 jobs (and I believe that is a modest figure) and written separate cover letters for each job application. One lesson that I learnt through this process is that ‘practice makes perfect’. With each cover letter written and fine-tuned, you find that you get better at writing compelling cover letters until you have perfected the art of selling yourself.
Don’t use free cover letter samples available online verbatim
Trust me, if you found it, someone else will too.
I currently work in a role that requires me to do some hiring for positions within the organization. Sitting on the side of the table has opened my eyes to see some of the reasons why some well-qualified applicants do not get the job. One of these reasons is applying with a completely generic cover letter lacking any personality or flavor. Sample cover letters are just there as a guide. If you have no clue how to build your cover letter, I recommend looking at a few sample cover letters online to get an idea of the general structure. However, be sure to make your cover letter authentic and personal.
Do review your cover letter several times, then get a fresh pair of eyes to go over them for you
Typos are an unforgivable sin for recruiters
It is important that you do not send off your cover letter immediately you finish writing it. I have a rule for any important document that I prepare – I wait until the next day to review them one more time, then print them out for a second review before handing them off to a third party to look through for me. Where I cannot find a third party to review, I wait one more day to review it before sending it out.
Of course, I have had to send out documents in a hurry on occasion due to an important deadline, but as much as possible, I give myself sufficient time to do a thorough review.
Typographical errors are unacceptable in a cover letter. Simple and clear. You cannot be telling a recruiter how detail-oriented you are in a cover letter full of typos. I think this point is clear enough.
Do make your cover letter short and sweet.
Less is more, in this context
Applicants struggle with keeping the content of the cover letter succinct but a great cover letter should be no longer than 1 page. Make sure that none of the information stated on your cover letter has already been set out in your resume. A cover letter should complement your resume.
Streamline the gist in your cover letter to the specific job you are applying to and how you are the best candidate for that job. Highlight your strengths and examples of prior experience handling similar roles. Tell the company how you can be an asset to the team and how the role will help take you to the next level in your career. This is not to talk about your weakness – you can do that at the interview – this is the time to emphasize all your strengths in a few words. Think of your cover letter as your sales pitch to the employer – Sell yourself.
Now let’s talk about the basic structure of a cover letter:
Make sure that you use the same font as used in your resume. Use a simple and easy to read font. The common fonts are Calibri, Arial, Verdana and Times New Roman. The general font sizes are between 10 to 12 points with standard margins 1 inch on all sides of the page. Add a space between the header, salutation, each paragraph, the closing and your signature. When you have signed your cover letter, save your file as a PDF document if you are applying by email. This helps keep the formatting intact when the employer opens the document on their computer as they may have an older or newer version of Microsoft Word that may mess up your formatting.
The Header and Salutation
Include your correct contact information as well as the employer’s contact information. Put the date after your address. I would generally write my contact information in the headnote section of the letter, like a letterhead paper so my date appears before the hiring manager’s address.
Sometimes, the job advertisement will not include the hiring manager’s name or the full address of the employer. Where that happens, a little detective work can put you ahead of the other applicants. Search for the employer online to find their full address, then search for their human resources manager. If you are unable to find the name of the human resources manager, use the title alone “Human Resources Manager” “Hiring Manager” “Hiring Committee” as the case may be.
If you are applying by email, be sure to include your contact information at the end, after your signature.
Introduce yourself and mention the role you are applying for. Include information on how you found out about the opening. Tell the employer that you are a qualified candidate for the job based on your background and express your interest in the organization. State a specific reason why you are interested in this specific job. A good resource to find tips on a cover letter is The Balance Careers website (www.thebalancecareers.com).
In not more than three paragraphs, set out your interest in the job position and why you are the best candidate for the job. This is where attention to the details in the job posting comes in. Look carefully at every skill or attribute set out in the job posting and explain how you meet those qualifications. Set out specific examples of how you have displayed these skills in previous employment.
Start strong, finish strong.
This is your chance to remind the employer how perfectly you would fit into the role. Emphasize what you bring to the table and how the job will help you achieve your career goals. Thank the employer for their consideration and state that you are available to discuss the opportunity further.
Use a formal letter closing, for example – Sincerely, Yours sincerely, Yours truly, Best regards etc. If you have an electronic version of your signature, use it, followed by your typed name. If you do not have an electronic signature, print out the letter and sign it in your handwriting.
Finding the dream job involves a lot of work and one way to stand out from the crowd is to prepare an excellent cover letter. Take the time to get this right and you will find yourself closer to your dream job.
Article written by Tomilola Adebiyi