Catherine's Career Corner

Cover Letter 

  • Feb 12, 2009
  • Catherine Adenle
  • 4 comments
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As a job seeker, it’s important to know that your cover letter is a companion to your CV. Although it is written entirely separate from it. Its purpose is to introduce you briefly as a candidate, indicating your career goals and objectives.

CatherinesCareerCorner coverletter

By Catherine Adenle

Essentially, your cover letter is a slightly longer version of the profile section of your CV if you have one, but it should not be overly wordy, ideally remaining under 100 words.

The recommendation by experts is that your covering letter should be as easy as a PIE (P = Passion, I = Interest, E = Excellence).

As a job seeker, a brilliantly written cover letter could be the key to open the door to a new job for you. If you are looking to stand out and not to follow the pack of 90% of job seekers who get the same results, be sure to compose all your job search and career cover letters with the PIE method in mind.

Passion: Write the letter with energy, enthusiasm and passion. Draw the connections between the company’s needs and what you, the candidate can offer. You build a rapport with the reader when you write with enthusiasm. Passion helps to overcome obstacles and liabilities. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, a lifeless letter reflects a lifeless person.

Interest: Using passionate words but having little to say is a waste of passion. Obviously, you must have something of interest to say that would result in a prospective employer developing a strong interest in you as a potential contributor to their organisation.

You must determine, in advance of writing the letter, what information will spark their interest in you. Investigate research and uncover the critical messages that you feel must be conveyed to generate immediate interest in you. Address the company’s needs as you understand them and draw the connections between those needs and your skills as means to meet them.

Excellence: Any potential employer is interested in knowing your level of commitment to excellence. Today, the job market is a shrinking, global village where only the ones that are ready to commit to excellence will survive. Most companies are looking for a few good people to hire and retain. Though, it may seem difficult to find a good position, hiring managers are probably of the opinion that it is just as difficult to find good candidates. So, it is imperative that you are able to package yourself for that first dynamic introduction so you will automatically be perceived as a potential good hire.

Do not forget to communicate your level of integrity, competence, confidence, and trustworthiness that most employers seek. Remember that a powerful cover letter should embody a compelling message, depict a professional commitment to excellence in one’s chosen career, and must be communicated with passion. Let your letter answer the following questions:

  • What is the company or the hiring department really looking for? What do they need?
  • What qualifications and experience do I have that are valuable to the company or the hiring department?
  • What can I offer? What specific contributions have I made in the past that will excite the potential employer?
  • How can I capture this concisely in my letter?
  • What type of personality do I have?
  • Why do I want to apply for this job and why this company/department?
  • Finally, what separates me from the rest?

If you can answer or address these points, you are on your way to construct a winning cover letter. However, you must always edit and polish your letter, get two other people (your mentor, manager, or any other hiring manager that you know) to read through for you. It is recommended that a good cover letter should include the following information:

  • The exact position for which you are applying.
  • How you came to apply for the position, as this can be useful to the organisation in terms of assessment of recruitment procedures.
  • Long and short-term job objectives, with brief reference to information contained in the CV.
  • Behavioural and other strengths that especially equip you to do the job well.

See your job search as a marketing campaign. You are the product and your cover letter is the sales person.

In the attempt to fit this information in such a small space, you may adopt the following policies with regard to the writing style of your cover letter:

  • Impress your suitability for the role upon the reader by describing your character and experience in a way that matches those characteristics described in the job advertisement.
  • Vary your vocabulary carefully to avoid repetitions and overuse of any one word or phrase.
  • Avoid using over-exaggerated adjectives
  • Use carefully selected strong verbs like ‘managed’, ‘developed’, ‘achieved’, ‘initiated’ and ‘directed’
  • Always write in complete and grammatically correct sentences e.g., ‘ I look forward to hearing from you’.
  • Keep your style simple and your tone businesslike and friendly, just as you would if you were speaking to the reader of the letter
  • The interviewer is looking to employ you in the future, not your past, so orient everything you write with a bias to the future
  • Always end the letter on a positive note
  • Finally, remember the Three P’s! (Professional, Pertinent, Punchy)

In addition, there are a number of layout considerations to be carefully thought about when writing your covering letter:

  • Use a standard business letter layout for your covering letter
  • Ensure that your letter is perfect in every way i.e. spelling, grammar, and consistency of information with the details contained in your CV
  • Margins must be appropriate in order to frame your letter attractively
  • Only single line spacing should be used and correct line spaces must be left after addresses, between paragraphs and before and after ‘Yours faithfully or sincerely’
  • Typically, a block or justified paragraph format is used rather than the outdated indented paragraph format.
  • Do not forget to sign or type sign your letter if sending it electronically. It is surprising how easy it is to commit this error in haste to submit application.
  • Detail enclosed documents.
  • Use a standard, clean typeface or font – highly stylised text is distracting to the reader and indicates an unprofessional approach.
  • Career changers seeking a new direction must highlight those transferable skills as well as explaining the rationale behind their application and passion to succeed in their new sector.

See this video on Cover Letter and other job search tips

If you find this article useful, you can also see:

Covering Letter No-Nos…
General Guide Lines for Writing Job Related Correspondence
Experts Offer Their No. 1 Cover Letter Tip

66 Free Cover Letter Samples/Formats

Let’s hear from you, add your comments below.

 

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4 thoughts on “Cover Letter

  1. Very useful information indeed. I like your simple writing style. Thanks for providing us with practical information. I have bookmarked you, keep on blogging.
    Denna, Sao Paulo, Brazil

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. Excellent points. The resume cover letter is often left out of the job search package. However, the cover letter is considered business etiquette and should be provided each time you send in a resume or CV.

    At times, the cover letter is all that is read, due to its narrative style. You can make your cover letter a powerful marketing tool, if you structure it and plan it well.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

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