What is a cover letter?
A cover is one of the most important documents required when applying for a position either in academics or in a company. It is a one-page document submitted alongside a CV to provide a brief introduction to the applicant. It provides a brief summary of the professional background of the applicant. Usually ranging from 250 to 400 words, it purposes to compel the hiring manager by getting them interested in reading their CV or resume. As such, a good cover letter earns the applicant a chance to get their CV reviewed while a bad one may result in their application being disqualified at early stages. In this blog we will walk you through the steps involved in creating a successful cover letter that might earn you an interview.
Steps for writing a cover letter
Step 1: Start your cover letter with a clear header
Start your cover letter by providing clear personal information and indicating essential contact information such as
Your Full Name
Similarly, include the contact details of the person you are addressing the letter to. In many cases, this is the hiring manager but in some cases such as in startups it could be a general manager. Nonetheless, if the person is not identified in the job description then it is safe to assume that it is the Human resource manager. You should include their contact information such as:
Name (if provided)
Postal/physical address of the organization
Step 2: Greet the hiring manager
Start by a proper greeting to grab the attention of the person who will be reading your letter. Everyone writes Dear Sir or Madam but you want your cover letter to stand out, then be a step ahead. Studies show that people are more attracted and likely to pay attention to things customized or personalized to them. This is why greeting the hiring manager by their names is likely to catch their attention. For example, you can salute the hiring manager as:
Dear Mrs. Cathy
In many cases the name of the hiring manager may not be indicated in the job description. However, there are many ways of finding this out. LinkedIn is one of the places you can start your search for a company’s hiring manager. For medium and big companies, the hiring manager is likely to be the Human Resource manager or the head of department, go to LinkedIn and look up the Human Resource manager of the company you are applying for. For startups of less than 10 employees, the hiring manager is likely to be the head of department, the director, or CEO. Another way to find out the name of the hiring manager is to go to the official website of the company where you will find a list of team members. If all methods fail go for:
Dear Hiring Manager or
Dear [Department Name] Hiring Manager.
It is advisable to avoid using "to whom it may concern”
Step 3: Introduce your cover letter in a catchy manner
Create a good first impression to attract the hiring manager to read the rest of the letter. They get many applications and combing through each and every one of them can be tiring and time consuming. Therefore, the few that will catch their attention from the beginning stand a chance of getting to the next level of the hiring process. Instead of starting your letter by talking about yourself and how you have served in a similar position, focus on how you can help the company solve its challenges. The main reason you are being hired is to provide solutions that can turn into profits to the company. Provide value to the company and give details about how your past achievements have prepared you for the challenge.
Step 4: Show the manager that you are the perfect person for the job
At this stage, you need to convince the hiring manager that you are the best fit and have the professional skills to back it up. It is important to align your skills with the job requirements. You need to demonstrate how you are going to fulfil specific needs of the company. Scan the job description and identify critical responsibilities to the position, then describe how you can fulfil the requirements. Talk about your previous experiences and how they will help in accomplishing the duties that come with the position.
Step 5: Are you the best fit for the company?
Being the right candidate is not enough, you should also be able to fit in the company’s culture. Will you be able to fit in and promote the company’s beliefs and ethos? The company’s culture drives its practices and processes including work ethics. If you don’t fit in, then you are likely to negatively influence other employees or be unable to perform effectively. Therefore, in this paragraph you need to convince the hiring manager that you are the best fit for the company. Search for relevant information about the company’s business model, the types of services and products they offer and the working culture and mention what you like about them. You might want to keep this as personal as possible and avoid being generic. For example, you can highlight a good experience with their services or products or something positive they do for the community that you like.
Step 6: Finalize your cover letter on a high note
The final paragraph of your cover letter should be brief and direct to the point. You have indicated everything in the body but may have some additional information that might earn you additional points. This is the right place to include it. However, the last paragraph should essentially contain a call to action or something you want the hiring manager to do in response to your application. For example, say how you would like to have an interview and discuss more about the application.
Step 7: Close the cover letter formally