Cover letters – does anyone still write them? The answer to this question is yes, very much and even if you don`t write a formal separate document called cover letter for your job application, chances are you are still expected to write something in the e-mail you send, or in the form you fill out on the employer site. So in essence, anything you write that accompanies your resume that is part of a job application is a cover letter! So, yes the cover letter is very much alive!
The reason is simple-for someone to even open your resume, they should be enticed by your cover letter. In fact, most college career centers both at the undergrad and graduate level tell us that recruiters are still looking for a cover letter to accompany the resume that is sent to them.
So if a recruiter already has a resume that is getting only 6 seconds for review to eventually move into the yes or no pile, then what is the role of a cover letter and how do you write a good one?
Yes, we know what a pain it is! So many documents to get just a call for an interview. But isn’t this the most important part of your career – the job you want? So it is all worth it and we are here to guide you to reflect your best version!
The role of a cover letter is simple – appeal to the recruiter to open and read your resume. Help him or her get to know a little bit about you and your interests which cannot always be expressed in a resume since it is a historic representation of your career journey and accomplishments.
Cover letters and resumes carry individual weight in terms of their impact on the prospects of a job offer. Most job postings instruct that a cover letter be sent along with the resume. However, in the absence of such a mention, we recommend that you send one anyway. Doing so reflects your earnestness in learning more about a certain job position or company.
There are, basically, two kinds of cover letters- 1) application cover letters or 2) prospecting cover letters. Application cover letters are forwarded in response to a specific job position or internship while prospecting cover letters are more enquiring in nature and not necessarily a reply to an advertised job position. A person may generally enquire about the relevant opportunities at a given point of time for a full time or internship position or about the requisite skills for a particular function, etc.
Regardless of the scenario under which you are submitting your cover letter, there is consistency about how to structure a good cover letter. Before you jump into crafting the perfect cover letter, it’s important to do some prep work.
You should focus on three main areas as part of your prep for writing a cover letter:
- Research the job-role you are applying for – what is written in the JD, what is said about this specific job role on the company website and what you know about the industry and function you are applying for.
- Research the company-learn nuances about the company culture, what types of employees they hire, what is the latest news about them in the press, what are their core products/services, etc.
- Spend some time reflecting on what makes you a great fit for the job as well as the company.
Once you have done this homework – you are now in a good place to start drafting your cover letter. Cover letters, unlike resumes, usually need a lot more customization for the exact company you are applying for. So while some elements can cut across your cover letters, a big chunk of your cover letter will need to be re-written for each application.
Normally, experts recommend cover letters be structured in a “You, me, we” format. In other words, they should be clear and concise expressions (modeled ideally in not more than 3-4 paragraphs) of what attracts you to the organization, how your skills and experience fit the stated job position and how the alliance can be mutually beneficial.
3 key steps to follow to create a good cover letter:
- Address it to the right person
Cover letters which form part of a job application are usually sent via email with the subject line explicitly mentioning the job title corresponding to the role in question. They can be addressed to the concerned HR representative or head of a particular division/department. Find out the contact`s name, functional title and department, and accordingly address him/her at the beginning of the letter. Do not have a general “to whom it may concern”.
- Strong and inviting intro paragraph
Begin the body of the letter by briefly introducing yourself and explaining how you learned of the opportunity. In case, it was through a reference, be proactive in mentioning his/her name. Proceed to explain what attracted you towards the company being specific in terms of the programs, policies or news related to the company. Avoid using over-generalizing phrases like “reputation”, “growth” etc. This should a concise, pithy intro that should invite the reader to read more. Avoid long sentences and general openings, the person should feel that you have done your homework and are excited about the opportunity.
- Showcase what is unique about you
Next, showcase your accomplishments and qualifications with respect to internships, volunteer work, class projects and professional experience, emphasizing details pertinent to the requirements of the job. Remember to focus on skills which are not as apparent in your resume, but would add substantial value. These could include behavioral elements about your personality that would be a good fit for the organization you are applying to. Again, connect this to the research you have done on the organization and the type of people it recruits, promotes and values.
Most likely, the HR manager or Process manager to whom you address the cover letter does not know you. He/she is really seeking to gather a composite mental picture of who you are and what you can accomplish. Spare some time to invest in a cover letter which can reflect the most relevant picture of your credentials.