When seeking for jobs, there are a few situations where employers expect you to not only bring in a CV or resume, but you may also be told to bring a cover letter. In other cases, cover letters may not be required, but including one may differentiate you from other applicants and help your chances.
Cover letters and resumes are almost similar to their purpose of having to prove that the experience and skills that you’ve obtained is useful and meet the requirements for the job that you are applying in. However, there are some distinct differences to the structure of a cover letter and a resume, and should be viewed individually but complement one another.
Resumes are document used to summarise your employment history with information that covers the jobs you’ve had, your education, certifications, accomplishments, skills, and other background information that you’re able to add in to show your qualifications. Your resume should highlight what you have done in the form of bullet points.
Cover letters are structured differently to resumes as it is in the form of paragraphs, including a greeting, a body with several paragraphs and a closing. When writing a cover letter, repeating what you’ve written in your resume and formatted to be written in paragraphs is a common mistake that many job seekers make.
As employers don’t have much time to read numbers of applicants’ cover letters, a cover letter should be concise, possibly no longer than 250 words to convince the employer that you’re the right person for the job.
Employers want to know more about you and why you are applying for the job. A cover letter is not only written to highlight your qualifications, but it is more importantly a way to introduce yourself and prove to the employer why you qualify for the job you applied for. While a resume answers the facts of who, what, when and how; a cover letter gives you the opportunity to add the explanation of why. Writing a cover letter follows a simple format and should preferably only be one page.
How to write a cover letter
- Review the job requirements Make sure you have gone over the job requirements to find out what you can highlight from your resume and explain in your cover letter how you meet their criteria
- Get straight to the point Make your cover letter short yet concise. Use the two to three paragraphs needed for a cover letter to explain and prove yourself to the employer without having to add information that may not be relevant to the job qualifications
- Sell yourself A cover letter gives you the opportunity to sell yourself and use persuasive language to why you want the job and why they should consider you as a potential employee
- Use a simple font Ensure that your cover letter and resume have the same font and font size that is easy to read. The last thing you’d want is for the employer to not be able to read what is written. The most common font for resumes and cover letters is Times New Roman, size 12 points in black
- Double check and spell check Double check, and even triple check your letter in case for spell checks or grammar errors. After you’ve checked your work, make someone else that you trust check it as well. Sometimes poor English may make or break your chances
- Tailor your cover letters Cover letters should be unique for the different jobs you apply in. This way it is personal and also allows you to highlight the proper qualifications that are suited for the job. One way to make your cover letter personal is to properly address the employer. Do background research to find the name and title of the person hiring to show effort
- Format your paragraphs Make sure you know the important information you want to put in and leave out the rest that would only add words to your letter and put them in the right paragraphs to make it look organised
- Paragraph #1 This is the opening paragraph after your greeting. This is where you give the reason to why you’re writing the cover letter; what and how you came to know about the organisation or position, basic information of yourself including your current title and experience
- Paragraph #2 This paragraph explains in brief detail why you’re interested in the employer and type of work that you’re applying for. This is where you try to persuade the employer into why you’re the right candidate for job by communication your understanding, relating your experience and education, and state what you can bring to the table that differs from others. You may be able to add bullets of the highlighted skills that are useful for the position, however do not repeat what you have written in your resume
- Paragraph #3 This is where you close your letter and indicate that you’d like to have an opportunity to talk with the employer about the position or other possible opportunities for you. You can also offer to provide addition information (portfolio, auditions, and referrals) and lastly thank them for their consideration in reading the cover letter and to contact you in the future
Cover letter format
The format of the cover letter can apply to most cover letters as there is more than one type. Knowing the different type of cover letters would be easier for you to know what kind of cover letter you want to write to deliver your message through to the employer. There are generally 5 different types of cover letters, including the application letter, networking letter, prospecting letter, referral letter and value proposition letter2.
- Application: A cover letter written as a response to apply for a specific job opening that was advertised or recommended, stating why you meet their requirements and be fit for the job
- Networking: This is a cover letter that you send to a contact you were given for advice and assistance on job seeking in hopes that they may be able to recommend you to a company based on your past experience
- Prospecting: A prospecting cover letter is also known as a letter of interest or cold contact cover letter. This cover letter allows you to inquire about possible job openings at a company that you may qualify in and meet requirements to
- Referral: If a person, whether it be a family member, friend or acquaintance were to recommend you to work with them, a referral cover letter can be advantageous as it mentions the name of the person who referred the job to you usually before a job has opened
- Value Proposition: This cover letter is a brief statement of roughly 100-150 words to prove what makes you a unique candidate
Knowing these different types of cover letters may be able to help you when you’re looking and applying for jobs to focus on what needs to be written and also ideas on how to write cover letters in other forms.
1 careerthinker.com, 2016, The Cover Letter, http://www.careerthinker.com/resume-services/resume-advice-tips/cover-letter/
2 Doyle, A. 2015, 5 Types of Cover Letters for Jobs, http://jobsearch.about.com/od/coverletters/a/types-of-cover-letters.htm
Doyle, A. 2015, What is the Difference Between a Cover Letter?, http://jobsearch.about.com/od/cover-letter-faqs/fl/difference-between-resume-cover-letter.htm
Micah. 2010, 5 Types of Cover Letters, http://www.everydayinterviewtips.com/5-types-of-cover-letters/