Resource Centre Job Search Advice How To Write A Cover Letter That Stands Out

How To Write A Cover Letter That Stands Out

A cover letter is like a sales pitch! This is what summarises all your skills, experience and capabilities for the job you are applying for.

Why A Cover Letter Is Necessary

A cover letter is like a sales pitch! This is what summarises all your skills, experience and capabilities for the job you are applying for. It gives you the opportunity to tell a story. It should be brief and straight to the point. Most candidates make the mistake of copy-pasting the same cover letter for all the jobs applied for. This is a huge error and it’s where most candidates go wrong. A cover letter adds focus to your resume.

In most job adverts it is a requirement for one to send their CV and Cover Letter. Unfortunately, most candidates don’t know the purpose of this letter. They treat a cover letter as just any other document required in the application process. For those who know the reason of having one, they make mistakes when sending out the application and as a result, employers and recruiters end up not reading them.

In this article, we’ll make a case on why your CV should always be accompanied by a Cover Letter and most importantly how to send this important document so that employers don’t have a choice but to read it. This way, you’ll increase the chances of getting an interview.

The Importance of A Cover Letter

  • It allows you to target the job and the employer in a very specific way. This is why you should never use the same cover letter over and over again. Always read and understand the job that you are applying for and this is what will guide you in writing a cover letter
  • A cover letter is a tool for you as a candidate to tell the employer what you find attractive in the job that matches your skills and why you want to work for them. It should not be a copy paste of your resume. It’s what makes you stand out from the crowd.
  • Use a cover letter as a teaser. What does this mean? Engage the employer in the cover letter to make them want to know more about you.
  • It gives you the opportunity to present your opportunities and accomplishments which is a good practice for job-search strategy.

Employers dislike long paragraphs so ensure that you follow the following principles to writing a great cover letter!

  • Be brief
  • Identify yourself
  • Exhibit your passion
  • Sell your qualifications
  • Make it easy to read

Whether you are a fresh graduate or a senior level career individual, you need a cover letter. There’s no exception since employers and recruiters expect to see one. Here is how to get the important document to work for you;

Demonstrate Why You’re An Ideal Candidate

I deal candidate

The CV does not afford you sufficient space to expound on your skills and accomplishments in details; otherwise, it would be a very lengthy document. It is through a cover letter that you demonstrate why you are the most suitable candidate for the role. For example, if it’s an administration job and one of the requirements is a candidate able to manage a team of ten, your cover letter should provide details of how you went about managing your juniors by setting targets, and monitoring and appraising their performance. In this example, mention the number of staff you supervised, including their titles and provide as much information as possible. Paint the picture for the reader.

With a cover letter, you can also pick a requirement and provide more details on how you’ve performed the same in your current or previous job. If for example, you are in the sales profession and the job you are applying for requires a candidate to open new markets, you should demonstrate how you were responsible for establishing a new branch, say in Mombasa. Outline in details the steps you took, the challenges you faced and what you learnt. Lastly, point out how the new employer can utilise that experience.

How To Capture Salary Details

At times, an employer will request that you indicate your current or last pay and desired salary. This information should be presented in the cover letter. Provide the details in the last paragraph as per this example, “my current/last gross pay is 50,000 and I am expecting an increase of 15% to 30% to be discussed further based on the clarification of the duties and responsibilities, and if there are other benefits.”

Information to Include in Cover Letters

cover letter writing

  • Addressing Cover Letters

Your full names, home address and the application date should be at the top. Then state the name or job title, company name and address of the employing organisation. Address the letter stating the name of the person; if unknown use the Sir/Madam title. The subject line should indicate the job position you’re applying for and the job reference number (if given).  Ensure proper pronunciation and punctuation as it showcases your writing abilities.

  • Introductory paragraph

The first paragraph should simply state why you are writing to them. If it is an advertised position, mention the position title stating where it was advertised. An easy way to start this paragraph is with the following statement: “I write to you regarding the above position, as advertised on BrighterMonday.” You should also state the job position and your highest qualification for the job.

  • Main Body

It should comprise of two to three paragraphs at most. Summarise your experience and skills as well as respond to the position requirements in a few sentences. Highlight how specialised you are, your experience and how you are the perfect match for the job. Paint a picture by giving examples stating precisely how you accomplished a given task listing actions and the positive results of those actions. Remember to always sell yourself.

  • Closing Paragraph

This is where you ask for an interview, showing your willingness to work for that particular company/organisation. It should also state how they can reach you, thanking the recipient for taking their time to read and review your application. Finish the letter by adding a closing remark, either “yours sincerely” or “yours faithfully”. Leave a space for your signature and then place your full name.

How to Send A Cover Letter

Sending a cover letter

95% of employers will expect you to make an online application. With that in mind, how should you send a cover letter?  For maximum impact, always copy paste the contents of the cover letter in the email body. The reason why you should copy paste is because the cover letter should be the first thing a recruiter reads when they open your email. And it’s a much better way of introducing yourself than having one line saying please find attached my CV and cover letter.

Is there a difference between an application letter and cover letter?

Recruiters normally get this question from those beginning their careers and my answer is, there’s no difference. Both refer to the same document. Whether you call it a cover letter or an application letter, the purpose is the same. It is a document that you send together with your CV to provide additional information on your skills and experience. Both typically provide detailed information on why you are qualified for that job you are applying for.

Lastly, be mindful of the length of your cover letter.  Regardless of your qualifications and skills, a cover letter should be at most one page. And you do this by only providing relevant information. If at one time you did sales, customer service and now you are in accounting and applying for an accountant job, you have no business outlining the sales or even customer service experience. Expound on what you’ve done or learnt as an Accountant. As a rule, restrict yourself to the job requirements.

From the above, you can see that you need a different cover letter for every job.  It is okay to have a general cover letter that summarises your skills, achievements and strong points but always make an effort to tweak an application to fit the specific needs of an employer. No two jobs or employers are the same, even when they are from the same industry. It’s through the cover letter that you demonstrate the skills, attitude and expertise to perform the job as per the expectations of the employer. And employer’s expectations are outlined in the job description/advert.

The cover letter’s sole purpose is to get the recipient to read your CV. It should be clear and concise. It should be on one page and easy to read. Include only the absolute necessary information as pertaining to the job requirements.

Mueke Katwa
Notification Bell