Let us be honest, job hunting is stressful. Think about surfing the Internet looking for credible job positions, tweaking resumes and applications, prepping for interviews – it is definitely grueling. Anyone can attest to the fact that writing a cover letter is probably at the top of their lists of difficult prerequisites in job hunting. Most organizations expect job applicants to submit cover letters along with their resumes and this presents an opportunity for a job seeker to get the attention of the hiring personnel. As anyone who has tried to draft an effective cover letter will agree that there are a lot of conflicting ideas on how to go about it.
Before we examine how to write a cover letter, let us go through some basics on preparation beforehand.
DO SOME THOROUGH RESEARCH
Absolutely no organization will be willing to hire anyone without a minimum level of knowledge about the job position and what it entails. Before you draft your cover letter, ensure you research on the company that you want to work in and the position as well. Familiarize yourself with the organizational structure (the top level management, middle level and line management) and how each level of management relates with the other. Additionally, make sure you have up-to-date information on the company’s executives by checking their employee profiles on LinkedIn. This will equip you with everything you need to know about where you would like to work as you draft your cover letter.
To further grab the attention of the hiring personnel, make contact with some of the officials working in the company through their social profiles and instigate a conversation that may gain you rapport. This will allow you to also reference this interaction when writing the cover letter and endear yourself to the hiring personnel. Of course this is easier said than done but it is worth a try.
EMPHASIZE ON PERSONAL VALUE
As Brian Tracy, author of the bestselling book Eat That Frog!, says, “Perhaps the most important word in the world of work is contribution. Your rewards, both financial and emotional, will always be in direct proportion to your results and to the value of your contribution.” The point is that in the workplace one’s rewards depend on how much value you contribute to the task itself and to the achievement of the objectives of the organization.
Laying a solid foundation through your cover letter by emphasizing on the personal value you plan to contribute to the company will set you apart from other hopeful job seekers. A mistake that is commonly committed is failing to focus on the skills one may harness to help solve challenges for the company and instead broadcasting one’s personal achievements. Hiring personnel are interested in the high-value contribution that you are planning to bring to the organization.
CHOOSE TONE WISELY
It would be a disaster for you as a job seeker to sound desperate in your cover letter. Furthermore, you do not want to come off as being intimidating or brash. A cover letter should take up an official tone so that the message is not watered down by informal language. You should also strive to be genuine and authentic; most people tend to adopt a tone of flattery and this rarely works it magic with hiring personnel. It is recommended that you ask a friend or a colleague to review the cover letter and check on the tone used as it is difficult to self-examine.
A cover letter should be at least one page and brief to the point. This will be well illustrated later when we look at the format of a cover letter. Ensure you do not embellish your cover letter with unnecessary information which might have it dismissed by the hiring personnel. Be honest with your achievements and skills.
WHY DO I NEED A COVER LETTER?
Lately due to online job applications coming to a rise, most applicants are scornfully leaving out cover letters from their resumes. Not only does this lower your chances of a successful job application, but it also defines the job seeker’s unwillingness to stand out amongst numerous applicants. Especially in a market where competition for positions is high.
A cover letter is an outline of a job applicant’s work history, professional skills contingent to the job position and personal experiences as well. It is espoused by a resume which expands upon the specific interests and skills mentioned in the cover letter. The cover letter provides an opportunity for a job seeker to sell their skills and endear themselves to the company of their choice. A well written cover letter is usually the distinguishing factor in the success of a job application.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Provide your contact details and those of the employer.
1. First and last name
2. Email address (use a professional address)
3. Phone number
4. Social profile (preferably LinkedIn)
These will appear at the header of the cover letter.
Provide for the contact details of the employer in the following format:
1. First and last name of the addressee, or the relevant department.
2. Company address
3. Company phone number
4. The hiring personnel’s email address
I will provide an example from ResumeGenius:
- Have a strong opening statement that grabs the attention of the hiring personnel. This part of the cover letter should make it clear why you want the job and what you intend to deliver.
- Ensure that you express your passion/love/commitment for the company and what it does.
- Highlight an achievement that has accorded you the necessary skill(s) to be able to address challenges in the workplace.
- Avoid humor as it may seem self-regarding.
An example includes:
It has been a lifelong dream of mine to make a powerful impact in the world, and working with your organization fits with this larger-than-life but not-at-all-menial objective. As a believer in making the most of what one has, I find myself drawn to two reasons why I am excited to be applying for [this position] at this [company.]
Emphasize on personal value/contribution
- Demonstrate an understanding of what the company needs and how you would slot in to help address these needs. This showcases to the hiring personnel that you already know about the company and what responsibilities you would undertake if selected to be a part.
- Use recent work history and achievements as proof that you have the skills needed by the company. Include professional achievements, personal achievements and awards that you may have had in previous positions that can prove useful for the company.
- For job seekers with little to no work experience, include extracurricular activities, academic achievements and goal setting.
An example of a cover letter where the candidate possesses work experience is as follows:
As a construction manager, I have developed strong interpersonal skills as well as managerial skills. In my previous project, I was able to delegate duties to the foremen and subcontractors and supervise their execution. I have also been able to understand and explain complex legal and financial implications to project team members which has streamlined the undertaking of two major projects, [name them]. In 2019, I was awarded [name an award] for my efforts in presenting quality projects to top clients in the country. I believe these skills will be tenable in your company and contribute to long-term success.
An example of a cover letter where the candidate has little to no work experience is as follows:
I recently graduated with a Second Class Upper Honors in [name the course] from [mention institution of learning]. For two years I served as the Secretary to [mention a club/society] and I was able to handle the affairs with diligence and discipline. I managed the records of the club and enacted policies regarding gender discrimination in the committee. My ability to solve problems in a high-tension environment makes me ideally suited for a position in your department of [mention a department of your liking]. I am excited to bring real-world experience to your entry-level position and quickly prove my worth.
Catch their attention
The human resource department is invariably bombarded with a lot of resumes and cover letters from prospective job seekers. The only way to set your cover letter apart from the rest is to ensure it grabs the attention of the hiring personn2el to the end. Here is how to ensure that happens:
- Express genuine enthusiasm to work for the company. Ensure that it does not come off as flattering the hiring personnel.
- Convey sincere appreciation for the work that the company does and mention any programs/projects that the company has undertaken.
- Add some personality to your cover letter but do not go overboard and risk sounding quirky.
An example of a cover letter where the candidate is genuinely enthused is shown below:
You should also know that I have a sincere appreciation of the [company name]. I have enjoyed learning about your programs and have personally visited your Nairobi headquarters, your exhibits, and attended conferences in Athi River and Machakos. The [company name]is my top choice and I believe I would be a valuable addition to your team.
Close out the cover letter
Ensure that this latter part of the cover letter expounds on your qualities as a confident, assured and willing job applicant. It is no use closing out the cover letter abruptly as it dilutes all the good work you probably did on the former parts.
- Thank the hiring personnel for reviewing your cover letter and resume.
- Briefly give a summary of why you would be a good job holder in the company and reiterate your willingness and commitment to work.
- Ask politely for an invitation to interview. (A call to action)
An example is as follows:
Thank you for reviewing my application. I have attached my resume with further details on my education and skills. My skills and experience in this field, I believe, make me an ideal candidate for your company. I look forward to meeting with you and discussing my qualifications in detail.
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