Sequel to our last discussion on interviews coupled with the requests made by some of us on cover letters, application letters and resumes, it’s my pleasure to discuss Cover Letters today on our career page. It is important to note that many organizations specifically request for cover letters when they advertise any job vacancy. Some other organizations may request you to write a cover letter as part of the interview process. Whichever one, it is expected that every one should have an idea of what a cover letter looks like and how it’s different from an application letter. More so, most organizations operate a resume driven process and as such require cover letters as against application letters. What it means is that if you must attach a letter at all to your resume, it must be a cover letter.
What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is sent generally to explain another document attached to it; say, a resume or a proposal. Therefore, a cover letter is a document sent alongside your resume briefly explaining who you are and the relevant skills you have in buttress of your resume. It basically tells the potential employer why you are qualified for the job.
Difference between a Cover Letter and an Application Letter
As the name suggests, a cover letter cannot stand on its own as the only document sent to a potential employer; it must be accompanied by a resume. On the other hand, an application letter can stand on its own since it contains more information than a cover letter. An application letter seems like a combination of both a cover letter and a resume. An application letter carries work experience, certificates obtained, skills acquired and so on. A cover letter does not carry all of these since they’re already contained in the resume. When you submit an application letter, you do not need a resume. As I said earlier, our society is resume driven and as such a cover letter is needed not an application letter. Many prefer using a resume because it’s always handy. Below are a few features of a cover letter.
- Be Specific:
A cover letter is always specific to a particular job. What a cover letter does is to basically:
- Introduce you
- State your skills and how relevant they are to the skills requested by the job advertiser
- Refer the reader to your resume
- Request for an audience (an interview)
There must be a clear indication that you are very conversant with what the job entails and what the organization is into.
No single cover letter can serve for two job vacancies.
- Be Brief:
A cover letter is usually on one page or less. It is simply a summary of the information on your resume. In some cases, it throws more light on your resume. For instance, you can summarize your achievements in your previous places of work in one sentence. It has to be short, straight and simple. You must learn how to combine sentences in order to be very brief.
3. Speak the language of the Industry:
In being specific, you are expected to speak the vocabulary of the industry as a proof you are grounded in the skills required. If you are applying for an ICT related job for instance, you need to use such words obtained in ICT to buttress your achievements and skills. Same applies for construction, administration, education etc.
- Be Formal:
No need reminding us that a cover letter is formal and as such must be devoid of all forms of informalities and expression of pleasantries; contractions and slangs. Contraction of words such as I’m, it’s, I’ll etc. should be avoided. Some fellows even write ‘am’ in place of ‘I’m’. Your name and contact details must be written in full. In a case where your letter goes out as an e-mail, use the subject bar to indicate the job you’re applying for and go straight to ‘Dear…’section. State your contact details beneath the mail.
- Avoid Errors
It beats my imagination each time I see cover letters replete with grammatical and typographical errors. You know, your letter is your first impression; and you cannot have a second chance for a first impression. Whatever is what doing at all is what doing well. Read your letter over and over again to ensure it’s free from all errors. Give it to someone to read through and ensure that all punctuations are properly used. Other common errors to avoid include: indiscriminate use of capital letters, errors of homophones and spellings.
- Address to the Right Person:
I have seen cover letters addressed to the managing director or other offices not in charge of recruitment. Each time you write any official letter, please find out the right office/person to receive it. You might even write the person’s name (Attention: Mr…….) if you know it. Once I see my name on any letter, it draws my attention quickly; and most times, I read such letters and probably attend to them. When letters are sent to the wrong office/department, those there might not be magnanimous enough to send it to the right one especially if it’s not in the interest of the organization. Imagine addressing a letter to the managing director and probably sending it through courier and the MD is somewhere in Las Vegas for a holiday. You’ll agree with me that the letter would remain on his table till he comes back. And may be the human resources department would have concluded the employment process. Most adverts indicate where you send your letters. It doesn’t matter if you know the director; send your application to the right person.
- Organize Your Letter Properly:
The format of presentation is as important as the content and the expression of your letter. Begin by stating your name and your contact. State the recipients contact almost immediately, beneath your own contact (by the left margin). State your salutation (find out if you’ll need to say “Dear Sir” or “Dear Madam”, “Dear Sir/ Madam and “To Whom it May Concern” are last resorts); then your title (which includes the specific job). Sometimes, title is omitted, and you go straight to the body which may have only three paragraphs and then closing
- Paragraph one: introduce yourself
- Paragraph two: state your skills which might include: leadership skills, analytical skills, critical thinking skills, creative, innovative, sense of initiative, problem solving etc
- Paragraph three: Ask for audience/interview.
Your closing should be formal with your full name and signature.You can make a follow up call after applying for a position; you can equally make direct contacts for a feed back; it is not out of place. Many have lost opportunities to be invited for interview because they trivialized the process of applying for a job. We shall be discussing “Professional CV/Resume writing soon. Till then, keep the flag flying!