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How To Write A Cover Letter

13th May, 2021

How to write a cover letter

It is always a good idea to write a cover letter when applying for an open vacancy. In some cases it is simply necessary. The purpose of this letter is to tell the reader about your goals, intentions and motivation for applying for the job. This creates a desire to meet with you. The cover letter is the perfect way to enhance your resume. When a cover letter is provided by a candidate it is always read first. So imagine the advantage this brings, when you’re up against candidates who haven’t attached a cover letter to their resume.

Here is a list of tips we’ve put together at Schwarz & Vogel that will help you write the perfect cover letter

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter written carefully and thoughtfully will give you the jump on candidates that haven’t written one. The main purpose of the letter is to grab the employer’s attention and convince them to read your resume carefully. The fact that you took the time to write such a letter will magnify your intentions and ambition. Serious candidates always write a cover letter.

If you are submitting your resume to a company you’d like to be a part of, you should not do this without providing a supporting cover letter. This is especially important if that company has no open vacancies. If you are responding to an open vacancy a company has advertised, you must ensure you go through the job description with a fine tooth comb.

In what circumstances is it necessary to write a cover letter?

  • When this is a clear requirement from the hiring company;
  • If you are a junior professional and have little or no work experience. In the letter, you can show motivation and potential;
  • If you are sending your resume to a foreign company;
  • If you are sending your resume to a well-established company;
  • If you are applying for a senior executive position;

The cover letter should reflect:

  • Your motivation and desire;
  • Relevant work experience;
  • Skills and abilities that are necessary to make an impact in the position;
  • Your professional excellence and suitability as a candidate. Specifically in regards to the company’s culture;

How to Write a Cover letter: What You Need To Know

Size of Cover Letter 

There are no clear guidelines for the size of your cover letter. The optimal size for a cover letter is 3-5 short and concise paragraphs. The letter should be no longer than one page. The letter should be clear and easy to read. It should only contain information that is relevant to the vacancy you are applying for. If you’re writing to show an interest in a company, be sure to research the company culture and values. Align your skills and personal attributes to your findings.

Cover letter style

In most cases a cover letter should be a formal business document. It should be clear and factual containing relevant professional information. There could be situations that require deviation from this idea. If you’re applying for a job as a stand-up comedian, your cover letter should perhaps include some humorous anecdotes. Always tailor your cover letter to the role you’re applying for.

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Structure and content of the cover letter

First, you need to remember that there is no universal template for writing a cover letter. Every cover letter requires an individual approach. Therefore, its construction is a creative process.

Before writing your cover letter, read the job vacancy carefully. Present an argument as to why you are the ideal candidate for the job. Match the job requirements with your experience and focus on relevant competencies in your letter. To make your letter easy to read, your cover letter should be clearly structured.

To create a brilliant cover letter, you’ll need to cover four topics

  • Why you are applying for the job
  • A short outline of your skills and experience
  • A brief description of your strengths and achievements
  • Why you want to work in this particular company. (This is important if you’re not applying for an open role and just showing an interest in the company)

These four topics should occupy a maximum of half an A4 page

Other things to include could be as follows:

  1. Make sure you greet the hiring manager or recruitment consultant.
  2. In the first line after your greeting, immediately state the purpose of the letter. This will be why you are applying for a specific role or why you want to work in a particular company.
  3. The cover letter must be addressed to the hiring manager directly. It should contain the company name and address. The hiring manager should not get the impression that you are sending the same letter to numerous companies that have similar positions open.
  4. Explain why you are interested in the vacancy or the company.
  5. Very briefly talk about yourself and your experience. If you do not have relevant experience, you should point to your academic record or personal attributes.
  6. Add some interesting information about yourself. You are trying to grab the attention of the hiring manager. Explain why you believe you are a top level candidate.
  7. You need to carefully study the company’s website. Find out what their culture is like. Try and connect with current employees to find out as much as you can about the company.
  8. Invite the hiring manager or recruitment consultant to read your resume. Make sure you attach a copy of your resume when sending your cover letter.
  9. Thank the audience for their attention.
  10. Leave your signature and the contact information by which you can be reached.
  11. If the employer mentions the need for a portfolio in the job description, add a note with links to your work in your resume.

How to write a cover letter template

The Greeting.

Always try and use names to greet your reader. Contact the company and ask for the name of the hiring manager. If it’s impossible to acquire the name of the hiring manager, then address it to the HR Manager.

The Introduction.

Write down which vacancy you are applying for and how you learned about it. Indicate the name of the company. This will show that you are writing to a specific company, and not sending bulk letters to numerous employers.

The Main Body.

This should be 1-4 paragraphs in length. Outline your skills and experience. Describe your strengths and achievements. Explain why you want to work for this company and what exactly attracts you to the job. If you are familiar with the activities of the company via social media or a subscription to their newsletter, mention it. This is how you show your loyalty to the company or brand.

Match the employer’s basic requirements with your experience and knowledge. If you do not meet all the demands of the vacancy, call out the gaps. Then explain how you plan to address those gaps with training, exams or certification.

The Conclusion.

Thank the potential employer for reading your cover letter. Let them know you are available to meet them. At the end of the letter, leave your contact details – phone number and e-mail address.

When sending your cover letter, be sure to include a “call to action” in the message. For example: “Feel free to contact me anytime, so we can discuss the role in more detail and work out suitable times for interview.”

Recommendations

The cover letter should not duplicate information from the resume. It is correct if it complements it. For example, if your resume contains little work experience or breaks of several months, the cover letter can explain why this happened. For example, if you lack experience, tell the reader more about your knowledge and skills. Explain how you are well equipped to deal with the demands of this new role.

It’s always good to be honest. If the reason for a long break lies in family circumstances or something personal, write a few words about it. For example, if you have moved to a new city – and you have not worked in the last year due to the move.

Keep it short is the most important tip. Remember the 3-5 short paragraph rule. If it is a popular company and over subscribed vacancy, the hiring team will have many cover letters to read. Short, sharp and to the point is the best way to construct your cover letter.

There is no place for personal information in the cover letter. For example, how many children or dogs you have, how you like to spend your weekends, or where you vacationed last summer. The text should be dedicated to what you, as a specialist, will bring to the company.

Typos and grammatical errors. The littlest of all evils, but try to avoid them nonetheless. Always check spelling and punctuation. If you are not sure of your skills, ensure you have a spell checker running when compiling your cover letter.

The cover letter should be neat and pleasing to the eye. Ask yourself if you would like to read the letter when you’re finished creating it.

Additional Tips

There are a few more areas that are worth considering when building your cover letter.

  • Before writing your cover letter, it’s recommended that you read about the company that has the open vacancy.
  • Do not ask questions related to wages and work schedules. Things like this are worth discussing in an interview.
  • Do not write about qualities and skills that do not match the vacancy. Irrelevant skills and experience is a sure fire way to be moved to the rejected pile.
  • Make it personal. Use names of hiring managers and companies. Do not start the cover letter with ‘Good Afternoon’ or ‘To Whom it May Concern’.
  • Be yourself and be honest. If you get the job based on falsehoods, people will work it out very quickly.
  • Always remember that this is a formal business letter and this will be the first time you are writing to the company and the hiring team.
  • You should try and remain positive and energetic at all times.
  • Steer clear of writing about your aspirations within the cover letter. This question will appear in the interview if it is important to the company and the hiring team.

 

How to send a cover letter correctly

These days it’s incredibly rare to receive hand written cover letters. Whilst appreciation for effort will undoubtedly be observed, paper will get lost. 

If you are sending your cover letter by email, create a short compelling message with the job you are applying for as the title. Attach the cover letter and your resume to the email.

A cover letter is a second bite at the cherry. It will give you an advantage over the candidates that haven’t written one. It’s a chance to present even more of yourself than what’s contained in your resume. Our advice is to always compliment your resume with a well constructed cover letter.

Good Luck!