Writing courses

Beginner’s guide to writing a cover letter

A cover letter may be your first and only chance to stand out and impress a potential employer. A well-written cover letter will review all of your relevant work experiences and accomplishments, convincing the reader why you are suitable for the position. It’s also a great way to go above and beyond to show your genuine interest. Although not mandatory most of the time, employers consider it good practice to attach a cover letter to your resume.

Are cover letters still relevant in 2022?

Most definitely, yes. According to a recent survey by ResumeLab, 83% of hiring managers, recruiters, and HR staff believe this is an important part of decision-making. Additionally, 83% of respondents thought they would interview a candidate with a great cover letter, even if their resume isn’t up to snuff. The survey also revealed shocking facts: even though a cover letter is optional, 77% of recruiters still prefer candidates who add cover letters. And no less than 72% of recruiters still expect to receive a cover letter, even when it is optional. If you were hesitant to write a cover letter, this should dispel your doubts. You can up your cover letter game by using these simple tricks:

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Add your details

You need to add your email address and mobile number just below your name. This will let them know where they can find you. Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to add your LinkedIn profile/personal website with your contact details.

A warm but professional welcome

Remember that it is another human being, although more experienced and qualified, who hires you. So instead of using robotic greetings, like “Dear concern”, you should use “Dear Jenny Doe”, “Dear accounting department”, or “Mr Smith”, etc. Avoid using common language like “What’s up Kim” or “Hey Bob,” even if you know them in person.

A punchy and bold opening paragraph

Start your cover letter with a direct introduction that also includes:

What position are you applying for: Make a specific contact. It could be a senior who recommended you for the job, it could be a vacancy you noticed on social media and try to add specific details. Give some facts about who you are and why this position intrigues you.

Why do you think you are a perfect match: Now that they know your interest in the job, it’s time to convince them why they should be interested in hiring you. Try to relate to the responsibilities and challenges associated with this position. For example, say something logical like “Let me draw your attention to the following three reasons why I’ll be a great addition to the team” or “I’ve noticed that your serve is progressing relatively slower in the following areas”.

Relevant experience, diploma or achievements: Recruiters are often looking for people who can solve real problems. Draw attention to your past research, work experience, and certifications on the topic in question. For example, you might write, “I have been working on potential reasons for the decline in market demand for ABC Company’s XYZ products. I am highly skilled in PQR software. Talk about how your previous work met your clients’ requests, or the success rate you generated on which project.

Present your qualifications: The second paragraph is where you explain your qualifications in detail. The associated qualifications and their importance in this position will help convince employers. Your qualifications will vary depending on who you are and the position you are applying for.

If you are a professional, highlight any particular services you can offer to this particular employer. It can be a very good platform to present all the qualifications that you had to omit in the CV. You can add transferable skills like communication, teamwork, or time management, but it pays to be specific. If you’ve demonstrated great expertise in a particular project in the past, that’s your selling point.

If you’re an academic, the best advice is to highlight any relevant roles, jobs, extracurricular activities, electives, seminars, summer schools, and field trips that you may have omitted from your resume. Perhaps you were a teaching assistant, or a library or laboratory assistant. This is your chance to show your lessons from these roles. If you have obtained distinctive awards for your good results in academic or voluntary work, you should briefly describe your story. If you have any publications, research papers or thesis that fit well with the department/professor you are applying to, you should add those as well.

Related to business needs: The job posting should have mentioned the responsibilities for this position. You need to analyze them and relate them to your previous experience/training.

Closing remarks: Reaffirm your interest and passion for this position and thank managers for their time and attention. Give them a call to action, for example mentioning your availability for an online/offline interview, an assessment test or a training period. End with a professional closing sentence like “Sincerely”, “Best regards”, “With our thanks”, “Respectfully”, etc.

Precision and format: Before submitting, remember to double check for possible grammatical errors. Make sure that all the information you put in your cover letter is honest and correct. Any anomaly or false information could get you in trouble. Also check that the letter is in .pdf/.docx format.

Do cover letters vary from profession to profession?

Yes more or less. If you have a degree in computer science and you are applying for the job of software engineer, your coding expertise should definitely be mentioned among your skills. Any relevant achievement or experience is a plus. But if you have a degree in business communication and you apply for the position of outreach officer, your skills will be completely different. However, if you are an arts student applying for the job of graphic designer, you should add your portfolio or at least some examples of your work. But if you are a science graduate, it is important to add relevant research and publications.

Remember that the basic elements of the cover letter will remain the same. But you have to tailor each letter differently depending on your employer’s needs. If your qualifications match the requirements well, a killer cover letter can really help you stand out. It is therefore recommended to add a personalized cover letter to your CV each time you apply for a new position.