After Part 1 which covered winning tips for a CV and Part 2 that explained how to adapt your CV for each job you’re applying to, here is Part 3 of this six part series on résumés and cover letters.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter or motivation letter is a letter, addressed to the person in charge of recruiting the new staff, in which you introduce yourself, explain the reason why you are sending the CV and why you are valuable for the company. It is basically a form to tempt the recruiter into reading your CV.
A good cover letter is specially important when you are applying for a job in a foreign country, because they probably find the name of the University you attended or the companies you worked for unfamiliar. It is therefore crucial that you explain in a few words where you come from, what you studied, what skills you obtained with previous jobs and why you would be valuable for the job.
A good, conscientious cover letter may be the key to obtain an interview.
People seem to be under the impression that a cover letter is no longer necessary. However, recruiters repeatedly complain about the amount of CVs they are receiving without a cover letter, and they explain that just for that reason they may discard that applicant.
Unless the advertisement expressly instructs not to send a cover letter, do. It is a great chance to make a difference. It will immediately show your interest in the job and your professionalism.
When you send your CV by email, you may want to use the cover letter as the body of the email.
When you are handing in your CV yourself, and specially if you go to a company to leave your CV in case a position becomes available in the future, a good cover letter is essential, as you will explain in it why you want a job in that specific company and why you would be an asset for it.
A good letter will include just the necessary information to prove the reader you are adequate for the job. As with your CV, it has to be brief. Recruiters do not have time to waste reading a never ending letter. A couple of paragraphs will be enough if you choose the correct words.
CONTENTS. What to include in the letter?
It is a “letter”, so it should start by stating your address and full date underneath. This information should be at the top – right corner of the letter. The address of the company you are sending it to must be beneath, but on the left of the page.
Name of the person in charge of recruiting.
It is important that you address the letter to a specific person instead of “Sir or Madam”. This will show that you know exactly where you are sending the letter. If the name is not stated in the ad, call the company and ask, or look up the name of the Head of Human Resources in their web page. And make sure you spell the name correctly!
Introduction. Why you are writing.
Explain why you are writing, what position you are applying for, if you have seen an ad in the newspaper or if you just write because you are interested in working for that company.
First paragraph. Some information about you.
The information you include will vary depending on the job you are interested in but basically you have to state your most important qualifications, what skills you have developed and why they are relevant for the position. They have to know you fulfil the requirements.
Second paragraph. Mention some of your best qualities and why they would be an asset for that company.
In a short sentence, mention some qualities and the fact that you will be a valuable addition to their staff of such a company. You may want to include some adjectives that describe the company (e.g. prestigious).
Ending. Mention you would like to have an interview and your telephone number.
End the letter stating that you would appreciate having the opportunity of an interview, and mention the telephone where they can reach you.
Finish your letter with your signature, as in any letter.
LAYOUT. Classic is always better.
Choose good quality white paper, write using a standard font and print it in black. A very creative letter may be off-putting for the recruiter.
Remember to check your letter. The register must be formal. Avoid contractions. Concentrate on grammar and spelling. A mistake can be disastrous.
In part 4, we talk about having the right attitude when job hunting.
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