5 Rules for writing an effective cover letter
A good resume can score you a job. But a well-crafted cover letter can help your CV get noticed. In today’s era of online job applications, many candidates choose to forgo sending this introductory letter. A grave oversight, when you consider most employers claim a cover letter is critical as it helps them short-list candidates.
A good cover letter provides context for a resume. It allows you to pitch for the job, by sharing what you know about the future employer and elaborating your accomplishments that are relevant to their business. It also helps explain gaps in your CV, like employment breaks or career switches if any.
The objective of a cover letter isn’t just to show you as a prospective candidate, but to introduce you as one.
To write an effective cover letter, keep it brief and to-the-point (ideally, not more than half a page), address the appropriate person in the organization and ensure that the document contains no errors. In addition to these basic rules, keep these five rules in mind:
Write a strong opening line
An effective cover letter must begin on a strong note. Recruiters go through hundreds of applications a day, so you need to be able to catch his/her attention with a good opening line. There are several approaches you could use for this. The tried and tested way is to introduce yourself and get to the point immediately. This will make you sound crisp and businesslike. Other methods include conveying your enthusiasm for the job or expressing a positive observation about the company. Irrespective of what approach you take, ensure you have a gripping and original first line.
The best cover letters always adopt an enthusiastic tone. No one wants to meet a listless candidate, so use the opportunity that the cover letter gives you to sound animated about yourself and the position you are applying for. The tone and attitude reflected in your cover letter is a significant intangible that will influence a hiring manager’s decision of whether to call you for an interview or not. So be sure to sound positive and eager about the job.
Use the right keywords
An effective cover letter makes generous use of keywords to convey the message that the applicant possesses the attributes required for the job. Avoid clichés and opt for descriptive adjectives. For e.g., instead of calling yourself a hard worker, say, “I have a tremendous capacity for work”.
Keywords related to a specific job can usually be found in the job advertisement, where the recruiters will list the skills and qualities required. To write an effective cover letter, scan the job details carefully and incorporate as many relevant keywords as you can without making it seem contrived. Sounds tricky? Try using a professional resume writing service to help you craft a balanced pitch.
Make your cover letter reader-friendly
Since the hiring manager has to go through several applications within a limited time, make your letter as easy to read as possible. Use formatting elements like bullet points, underlines, italics and capital letters to emphasize key points. Not only will this convey your message more effectively, it will also make your letter more aesthetically appealing.
Share facts and figures
Recruiters are always on the lookout for reasons to hire you. An effective cover letter should spell out why a candidate thinks he/she is the best person for the job and this case needs to be backed up with sufficient evidence of past achievements. A good strategy is to pick out a couple of your most important accomplishments relevant to the position you are seeking and supplement them with numbers. For instance, share profit percentages, budgets or time frames to highlight your successes instead of just pluralizing your accomplishments so that a hiring manager knows exactly what you can do when he/she reads your letter. Saying, “Improved production efficiency” doesn’t have the same ring as “Created processes that boosted production by 15%”.
Top tips to keep in mind while writing a cover letter
- Source the name of the person you are writing to. Avoid generalizations like Dear Madam/Sir or HR Manager.
- Don’t go on about what a job with the company means to you. Instead focus on what you can do for them.
- Don’t end by saying you’ll wait to hear from them. Ask for an interview or state your intentions to follow up with a phone call.
- Avoid cliches like “Find my resume enclosed”. The person reading your letter can see there is a CV attached.
- Don’t ramble on about your career. Tailor the letter specifically to the job you are applying for.
- Use strong words like “I am convinced” instead of “I feel” to make an impact.
- Your letter reflects your ability to write and communicate. So make sure you proofread it before sending it out.