Searching for a job or internship isn’t exactly fun and writing an effective cover letter can be even less so. Many candidates bypass this essential feature to the application process, seeing it as a futile exercise. Writing a stellar cover letter or not, however, can be the difference between getting an interview and a resume thrown in the trash.
It’s actually very common for candidates to leave out the cover letter in an application, but the truth is, a resume is just not enough to cut the mustard.
Why writing a cover letter is important
Think of it like this: Potentially hundreds of candidates will apply for the same job. If, hypothetically, 80 percent do not include a cover letter, it’s the remaining 20 percent that will be taken notice of.
In her Linkedin post, Lauren Nelson, a principle consultant with Aesthetic Cogency, said “In most cases, it [a cover letter] can even help you overcome deficiencies in your resume or a lack of experience. I would rather have a determined, passionate individual with a strong work ethic on my team than an Ivy League degree without tenacity every single time.”
Writing a cover letter
The purpose of writing a cover letter is to highlight your ability, interest and curiosity for the role and to reflect your personality to the hiring manager. Using the cover letter as an opportunity to highlight the stand-out skills not already written in your resume will go a long way.
Generic cover letters used for multiple applications is very obvious to a hiring manager, giving a sense that the candidate doesn’t actually care about the job. Each application, and therefore covering letter, should be treated and modified individually for optimum affect.
Starting a cover letter with “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whomever it may concern” tends to convey a lack of research. Find out who you should be addressing within the company and if that information is unavailable to you, miss it out completely.
Research the industry and company you are trying to work for and sprinkle historical facts throughout the cover letter to highlight how well you know your industry. This emphasises curiosity and knowledge in your subject, deeming you appropriate for the role.
Read: How to Build a Resume the Right Way
What to include and what not to include
Omit sentences that say “My name is...” and “I am applying for the role of…”. Introducing yourself in the opening sentence of a paragraph not only wastes time, but indicates lack of experience. Get straight to the point—the hiring manager will already know your name and what role you are applying for.
A cover letter should be written with the intention of establishing a bond with the reader. Direct the letter to the company and discuss your specific skills and attributes emphasising your suitability for the role.
Avoid cliché buzzwords that everyone seems to write into their cover letter. These can include phrases like, “detail-oriented”, “hardworking” and “works well in a team”. Be creative and original. Think “enthusiastic” and “integrity”, for example.
Finally, don’t hesitate to follow up your application and cover letter with a call. Initiative is an attractive quality in a candidate, and you might be surprised to know that few candidates ever follow up in this way. Doing this puts you at the forefront of the hiring manager’s thoughts, and helps make you stand out as assertive, willing and right for the job.