How to write a cover letter for a job

Before we proceed onto the whole arena of writing a cover letter, please note that in the current world, where you contact your potential employer via email, the cover letter is no longer a separate document but becomes part of your email with key difference being your address in email goes at the bottom as part of your signature and you will need a relevant subject line.

Having said that, even if you don’t need a cover letter for your particular job application, having one is still a good idea for following reasons:

  • Helps you frame a great response to the question, ‘tell me about yourself’, essentially cover letter is a response to that question, in writing.
  • Gets your profile attention from the busy but potential employer.
  • Acts as doorway to your main profile.
  • If cover letter is not ‘attention grabbing’ then chance of the employer looking at your resume are slim.

Keeping in mind above facts, let’s see places where Cover Letter is still in particular use:

  1. Job sites: Employers scour through 1000s of profiles; they don’t have time to dissect your resume. Having a cover letter helps grab the attention and forces them to look at your resume. CAVEAT: As cover letter may help people to look at your profile, if written poorly, even a grandiose profile can be ignored.
  2. News Paper ad: If you are responding to a newspaper ad, your resume is going to be among thousands of other resumes’, and having a attention grabbing cover letter helps you stand out from the crowd.
  3. Referral: If you are applying for a job through referral, ensure you have a cover letter included. The cover letter reiterates what your referrer may have already boasted about you.

Writing a cover letter:

What does a cover letter have? Let’s examine the skeleton of a cover letter which will give you great edge when writing your own cover letter. We will examine two models here, one to respond to a target job ad (job requirements are known) and the other where you want to highlight your credentials for potential Employer(s) searching for people with your skill set.

Before we look into different cover letter formats, we would like to mention few key points to consider while penning down the cover letter.

  • The employer will be receiving plenty of cover letters for job applications. He may or may not have enough time to read the entire cover letter. So do not write long stories in your cover letter, keep it short, clear and to the point.
  • Be professional in your approach, do not express any signs of desperation. Being desperate can put you in a job position below your abilities and sometimes you can be at a disadvantage during salary/pay negotiations.
  • The first paragraph in your cover letter you write will most likely determine if you are being invited for an interview. Most of the employers will decide to read further based on what you put in first paragraph. Your choice of words, tone in the cover letter will tell how interested and excited are you about the job position. We will see this with an example, –

Example 1:

Dear Manager,

With reference to your advertisement for the position ‘Regional Sales Manager’ in xyz newspaper dated 13.1.2012, please consider my attached resume for the above position.

Example 2:

Dear Manager,

I am excited to know that the Regional Sales Manager position with Magnum Sales Force LLC is open to hire (ref: xyz newspaper dated 12.1.2012). With much delight I would like to say that my qualifications and skills go hand in hand with the requirements of the position.

Which one of the above two examples you think is expressing more interest in the job? It’s obviously example#2, because it reflects personality of the job applicant and his keen interest in the position. Example#1 is okay, there is nothing wrong with the letter, however, it is dry and it gets quite boring to read standard phrases. It is lacking ‘excitement’.

With those elements covered, now let’s look at the skeleton of the cover letter using various scenarios (Use the templates we have posted and modify them using the below guidelines):

I. When you are responding to a job ad (on sites or news paper) i.e., Job requirements are known:

Your contact information
Employers contact information

Greetings,

Showcase your interest in the first paragraph referring to the job title that you are interested in.

Job Requirements – Restate the job requirements here.

My Credentials – Relate your experience, education and expertise to the job requirements. It is recommended that you match the scheme of job requirements to your matching skill set.

Closing follow up queue and thank you statement.

Salutation,

Signature

II. When target job (requirement) is not known (great for posting your resume on job site for potential employers to see), particularly useful for inexperienced aspirants:

Your contact information

Greetings,

First paragraph: talk about why you will be a good addition to the organization.

Second paragraph: talk about the experience, projects(college projects count too), education and achievements.

Third paragraph: refer to your resume for complete details and reiterate your target job aspirations.

Closing: follow up queue and thank you statement.

Salutation,

Signature

III. When you are contacting specific company for potential openings (experienced and inexperienced aspirants)

Your contact information

Company’s contact information

Greetings,

First paragraph: talk about why you will be a good addition to the organization. If you were asked to contact the company by current employee (referral), mention that here.

Second paragraph: talk about the experience (if any), projects (college projects count too), education and achievements.

Third paragraph: refer to your resume for complete details and reiterate your target job aspirations.

Closing: follow up queue and thank you statement.

Salutation,

Signature

Cover letter closing statement:

It may be surprising to know that the closing statement can keep the door of your employer open or closed for you to reach out at a later date for follow up. Have a look at below examples:

If you have any questions about this article or just about anything related to the job world, join our conversation on blog section

Example 1:

I look forward to talk with you about the sales manager opportunities with Earthlife Organics. I will contact you after one week to confirm that you received my E-mail and resume and to answer any questions. I can be reached at (404) 123-1234 if you would like to reach me before then. Thank you very much for your consideration

The above closing statement gives a soft nudge to the reader of the cover letter about reaching out to them after one week. It is also a good practice to slip in your contact number in case they would like to reach you earlier than your stipulated time frame.

Consider below example that virtually closes the door –

Example 2:

I look forward hearing from you, enclosed is a copy of my resume. Thank you very much for your consideration.

This example is pretty much self-explanatory. It is considered a good practice to include follow up statement, as this indicates you are serious about the job opportunity.

That covers pretty much what you need to know about writing a cover letter. Use the templates to build your own attention grabbing cover letter.