A carefully-crafted resume is the keystone of a job application. A large number of employers will also ask for a covering letter. Most, often, you will use a standard template: a few lines dashed off thoughtlessly.
Why Bother With a Covering Letter?
Giving a lot of time and attention to the covering letter might appear old-fashioned in an age when applications are submitted online. Still, a well-written document can make you stand out amongst a crowd of applicants.
The covering letter is a single-page letter of introduction — yourself, to the hiring manager. It is a carefully-crafted argument for why you are the best person for the job.
Remember, applications are scanned for specific keywords, phrases and qualifications, often by apps and bots, before being passed on for review by humans.
When Do You Send A Covering Letter? Always.
Quite often, a covering letter may not be mandatory. Don’t take this as an opportunity to slip out. Always send one.
No Templates, be Creative
Although you can recycle some portions of the letter, the bulk of the message should be one-of-a-kind, targeted at the company and the job you are applying for. Resist the temptation to automate the document.
Use this outline for writing your letter.
Begin with the usual salutation, a name preferably, or the designation of the person doing the hiring. Increasingly, there is a tendency to be informal: a “Hi” or a “Hello” rather than the “Dear …”. Judge the nature of the organisation before you decide. If it’s a young, start-up, open to fresh ideas, stay informal. If it’s a well-established company, then a more traditional style of address.
STEP 1: Start with Them, Not Yourself.
It’s customary to start by talking about yourself. Don’t. Your resume will do that. Do some research on the organisation and learn what their mission/ vision is. Point out how your ambition fits with theirs. Keep the tone enthusiastic but not over-powering. As the Taoist saying goes, pointed, not piercing.
STEP 2: Talk About the Job and How You Fit the Description
Show that you have understood the nature of the job and the specific requirements of you. Describe how your skills suit the position. How do they solve a problem or address a pain point for the company?
Many a time, tucked somewhere in the body will be a question or task assigned to you. The employer uses this as a check to see if you have scrutinised the application well. Make sure you respond and highlight your response.
STEP 3: Close With a Call-to-Action
The last paragraph should be a single-line recap of the company, the job and your fitness for the position. Give a contact number or email address, even if it’s there in the resume.
Keep It …
- Short – not more than 2 or 3 sentence per paragraph.
- Succinct – don’t use grandiose or flowery language.
- Neutral in tone – don’t be fawning, effusive or stiff.
And Don’t Forget to …
- Spell check, grammar check, obsessively. Nothing negatively portrays you as much as a sloppily-written document, full of spelling mistakes and poor grammar.
There’s no question that the resume is the make-or-break factor in your application. Remember though that an outstanding covering letter could deliver the tipping force to your effort at getting a job.
Looking for work can be very disheartening. Finding your perfect job takes a lot of courage, persistence and ingenuity. Steve Jobs said:
“If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.” ― Steve Jobs
Dr Arjun Rajagopalan