A cover letter to accompany your resume is important. So what should you include in this letter, how should it be structured, and how do you make a lasting impression? The following section gives you important advice and layout tips, as well as information about online, and unsolicited applications.
Decide on your message
When writing a cover letter, you shouldn’t just start writing, nor should you stare for hours at a blank document. The first step you should take is to decide exactly what it is you want to say. What message are you trying to get across? Whatever you do, you have to answer the following three questions: why do you want to work for this company, why are you interested in this position, and what makes you suitable for the job?
Draw attention to yourself
The goal of this letter is to catch the recruiter’s attention, so you should start with a strong introduction. An original opening sentence that flows well and arouses your reader’s curiosity will really get your foot in the door. A good introduction invites the recruiter to read on and makes them curious about the person who wrote the letter. A strong opening line often requires creativity and a great deal of thought about what will stick in the reader’s mind. You could try opening with a personal anecdote, a reference to a previous encounter or current events.
Once you have caught their attention, you need to arouse their interest. How do you do this? Firstly, put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter or client and imagine the sort of person they are looking for. It’s not about why you want the job, it’s about what you can do for the business. To do this, take a look at the job description given for the vacancy and check the company’s website. Find out what they are looking for and consider how you fit this profile. Explain why you are suitable for the job and what motivates you about it. The cover letter gives you plenty of opportunity to get this message across.
Select relevant experience
The chances are that not all of your professional experience is relevant to this function. You should pick the most important experience you have and leave out any unrelated side-line activities. The employer will be able to find these in your resume anyway. What is relevant to the cover letter varies for each individual application. Just like your resume, your cover letter has to suit the occasion.
Give concrete examples
The best way to prove your suitability is by giving specific examples. Think of all the relevant competencies you possess and describe situations in which you demonstrated them. To find examples, think back to your studies, your extra-curricular activities, or your previous jobs. Try to avoid using the exact terms used in the job description. For example, if the vacancy asks for a ‘team player’, then tell them how you enjoy working with others and how you frequently worked in teams in a previous job.
Emphasise your motivation
Why do you want to work here? And why would you suit the company? The cover letter is the perfect moment to get this information across and provide a creative complement to the hard facts in your resume. Why exactly do you want to work for this particular company? In order to answer this question, research is often necessary. Information can be found online, for example, via the company’s website or you could ask somebody who already works there. You can then refer to this information in the cover letter. For example, if the company vision appeals to you, then tell them why. However, be specific and don’t lapse into clichés. Link yourself with the company by means of experiences, shared ideals or common characteristics. The same advice applies to why you want the job in question. Make sure you know exactly what the job entails, as only then will you be able to clearly explain your motivation. Be as specific as possible.
Go out with a bang
Your goal is to get the reader to invite you for an interview. To do this, devise a powerful closing sentence so you come across as confident and assertive. However, make sure you find the right balance: you also don’t want to sound doubtful, but you also don’t want to sound arrogant. Avoid words like ‘think’ and ‘hope’ as they reek of insecurity. Finally, avoid closing sentences that are too vague, too expectant or too formal.