What should your cover letter contain?
Building upon the information already in your CV, your cover letter should state why you’re the best candidate for the specific job you’re applying to, it is meant to encourage recruiters to give your CV added attention, highlighting the most relevant information for the role in question.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you write a compelling cover letter.
Determine your situation
Depending on your job search strategy there are three types of situation that pre-qualify your cover letter style;
- Cold cover letters accompany unsolicited résumés. Your approach should be brief, direct and clear featuring; qualifications, target position, salary requirements, and availability for when you can start, travel requirements and relocation.
- Ad response cover letters should be written according to the ad’s stated qualifications. Be sure to bring up your background as it relates to the job position being advertised.
- Referral cover letters should mention the person who has referred the job position. The recruiter can then act on your application, say, ask the concerned person about your suitability for the job, per his knowledge.
Write with a Purpose
We can’t stress this enough. Before you sit down to write your cover letter, do some research on the company and job you’re applying for. Things to look out for include; what the company does their competitors and where they’re placed in the market.
Not only will this help you fill the content of your cover letter but will demonstrate your interest in the role and the effort in which you’ve gone to prove it.
Structure of your cover letter
Address the letter;
If you know the person; Dear Mr. Smith / Ms Jones, if you don’t; Dear Sir / Madam will do.
Top tip: If you’re unsure of the person to address, don’t be afraid to contact the company to ask for a name. After all, there’s no harm in showing initiative.
Opening the letter;
You want to let the recruiter know straight away why you’re getting in touch, so keep things short, to the point and explain what job you’re enquiring about and where you found it advertised.
Example: I would like to be considered for the position of IT Manager as advertised on “nesconsulting.co.za”. My CV is attached for your consideration.
In this section you should attempt to answer the question ‘why are you suitable for the job?’ Describe the academic and professional qualifications you have which are relevant to the role, matching each pre-requisite within the job description with an example.
In this section you should attempt to answer the question ‘what can you do for the company?’ Use practical examples to demonstrate what you can bring to the table, these examples might be from your current/previous position or academic qualifications.
Try and quantify each example with a statistic or fact to give your qualifications clout, saying you ‘increased customer retention by 70%’ instead of the fact you simply ‘increased retention’ will dramatically increase your chances of being taken seriously.
Here is where you tie everything together with a big red bow, reiterating your interest in the role, why you’d be right for it and what makes you a great fit culturally.
Closing the letter;
This is the opportunity to bring in a call to action, after thanking the recruiter for their time, indicate that like to meet for an interview.
Sign off your cover letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ (if you know the name of the hiring manager) or ’Yours faithfully’ (if you don’t), and your name.
It’s all about the presentation
Go for Brevity, recruiters have little to no time to read lengthy cover letters. Being brief is an important aspect of your cover letter so be sure that you have conveyed your message within one page.