A cover letter is an important and often expected part of a job application. It is also an opportunity to set your application apart from the competition. A well-crafted cover letter can demonstrate your interest in the role, put your key skills and experience in the spotlight, and showcase your personal brand. How do you do that? First, master the basics. Secondly, write for your audience. Thirdly, know your goal. Read on to learn more.
Master the basics
The first step in crafting an effective cover letter is knowing what information to include. Generally, it’s good to include your reason for applying, and a summary of your experience, skills and education. All this information should be specific to the particular job that you are applying for. A generic cover letter used for multiple roles will be spotted. A good cover letter should serve as an introduction to you and your resume. It should also respond to the role, and highlight your relevant skills and experience.
Another important point is to always check for any specific requirements of your cover letter. Often, job advertisements will ask you to respond to specific questions, provide examples or address criteria. Sometimes there is even a page or word limit. Be sure to meet these requirements in your cover letter, as your reader will be on the look out for these points. Once you have covered everything, read through your letter a few times to check for errors and make sure it is a suitable length. Unless there are a lot of questions to answer or criteria to respond to, aim for no more than one page.
Write for your audience
So you know what to include, but do you know who you’re writing for? The person reading your cover letter is going to be making a decision or recommendation about whether to interview you or not. This is your primary audience. What information does the person choosing interviewees need to choose you?
Sometimes it can be hard to know how much detail to include. Will the person reading your application know what your experience really entails? Your cover letter is the perfect place to contextualise your experience. For example, instead of just listing management experience, give some context to that experience. How many direct reports do you have? What kind of budget were you managing? Give examples of your leadership and management skills. What were your responsibilities and achievements? By giving your reader the context of your experience and showing how your experience is relevant to the role you are applying for, you will be making a good impression.
Know your goal
The goal of your application is to secure an interview, and ultimately the position. Think of your cover letter as a tool. Its purpose, together with your resume, is to get you an interview. It will likely also be read by the people interviewing and selecting applicants, so it should contain enough information to support your claims in relation to the role. It needs to be specific to the role you are applying for and highlight your key strengths to a recruiter or potential employer. Be authentic and show your personal brand. Keep your goal of securing an interview in mind as you write, as well as what your audience is looking for, and you should be well on your way to an effective cover letter.