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How to Write a Great Cover Letter and Why Is It Important

Advice
Aug 16, 2023
How to Write a Great Cover Letter and Why Is It Important

The job market is competitive, and standing out becomes the gold standard. But, what is a cover letter and why is it given such importance? Think of it as your professional introduction—a document that accompanies your resume, offering a deeper insight into who you are, your capabilities, and why you are a great fit for a specific position. While your resume focuses on your qualifications and experiences, your cover letter narrates a story, bridging the connection between your professional journey and the company's needs.

What is the Purpose of a Cover Letter

Understanding the purpose of a cover letter can aid you in crafting a compelling one. Here’s a breakdown of the objectives, illustrated with examples:

  • Direct Communication: Addressing your letter directly personalizes your approach. Example: Instead of starting with “To Whom It May Concern,” finding out the hiring manager's name and addressing them directly, such as “Dear Ms. Patterson,” adds a touch of personalization and shows effort on your part.

  • Highlighting Key Points: Use your cover letter to accentuate specific achievements or experiences. Example: If you’re applying for a financial analyst role and recently helped your previous company increase its annual profits by 20% through strategic financial forecasting, mention this.

  • Addressing Concerns: Tackle potential red flags proactively. Example: If you took a two-year break to pursue further studies or personal commitments, your cover letter can read, “After dedicating two years to advanced studies in Financial Management, I’m now eager to apply my new knowledge to a practical setting.”

  • Demonstrating Fit: Go beyond qualifications; show how you resonate with the company’s values and culture. Example: “Having been a long-time admirer of XYZ Company’s commitment to sustainable business practices, I was particularly proud of my role in leading a green initiative at my previous job which reduced paper waste by 40%.”

  • Evidence of Due Diligence: Show you’ve done your research about the company. Example: “Impressed by XYZ Company’s recent expansion into the Asian market and its innovative product launches there, I am enthusiastic about bringing my experience in Asian financial markets to contribute to this exciting phase of growth.”

Remember, the purpose of a cover letter is not just to restate your resume in paragraph form, but to provide context, demonstrate fit, and show the company why you deserve an interview. It's your first opportunity to make a meaningful impression.

How Do You Write a Cover Letter?

Crafting a cover letter is an art, blending your professional narrative with the company's needs. Here’s a deeper exploration of how to go about it, illustrated with dos and don’ts:

Research the Employer First

  • Do: Delve into the company's mission, recent achievements, and even press releases. Example: "Having seen ABC Corp's recent initiative towards sustainable energy, I am excited about the possibility of contributing to such forward-thinking projects."
  • Better Not to Do: Avoid generic statements. 
  • Example: "I am applying for the job at your company because it's a good company."

Focus it on the Future

  • Do: Highlight what you'll bring to the company in the coming months and years.
  • Example: "With my expertise in data analytics, I am confident in my ability to help ABC Corp streamline its operations and enhance profitability in the coming years."
  • Better Not to Do: Solely dwelling on past achievements without connecting them to future actions. 
  • Example: "At my previous job, I handled data analysis."

Analyze the Job Description

  • Do: Mirror the language and key requirements of the job description to show a clear fit.
  • Example: If the job description emphasizes “team collaboration,” your cover letter can mention, "In my previous role, I fostered team collaboration to successfully complete a challenging project ahead of schedule."
  • Better Not to Do: Submitting a generic cover letter that doesn’t cater to the job specifics.
  • Example: "I have been in the industry for several years and have various skills."

Write your Experience and Motivation

  • Do: Intertwine specific experiences with your reasons for applying.
  • Example: "Having spearheaded a successful digital transformation project at XYZ Enterprises, I am motivated to take on larger challenges at ABC Corp, given its reputation for embracing technological innovation."
  • Better Not to Do: Mentioning experiences without context or relevance. 
  • Example: "I have worked at several companies in different roles."

Emphasize Your Personal Value

  • Do: Identify what sets you apart and mention it. 
  • Example: "While many might have the technical skills, my unique blend of tech-savviness coupled with my leadership workshops ensures I approach challenges holistically."
  • Better Not to Do: Being too generic or arrogant. 
  • Example: "I believe I am the best candidate for this job."

Add Your Contact Information

  • Do: Place your updated contact details prominently, ensuring they’re easy to find.
  • Better Not to Do: Burying your contact details within large blocks of text or omitting them altogether.

Back up Your Qualifications with Examples and Numbers

  • Do: Be specific about your achievements. 
  • Example: "My revamped marketing strategies led to a 25% increase in organic website traffic over six months."
  • Better Not to Do: Making vague claims. 
  • Example: "I've done some great things in marketing."

In essence, a cover letter should be your professional story, highlighting experiences, achievements, and your potential value addition, tailored perfectly for the company you're applying to. Make it concise, relatable, and authentic.

Cover Letter Examples

When writing cover letters, examples can serve as guides to illustrate the right and wrong approaches. Below are some examples to consider:

Good Example for a Software Engineer Position:

Dear Ms. Hernandez,

Having been an avid follower of XYZ Tech's innovative approaches to cloud computing and machine learning applications, I am enthusiastic about joining your team as a Software Engineer. With a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from Stanford and four years of experience at ABC Solutions, I spearheaded a project that improved system performance by 20% and reduced code redundancies by 15%.

My proficiency in Python, Java, and cloud technologies, combined with a collaborative mindset, aligns seamlessly with the qualifications sought for this role at XYZ Tech. I am eager to contribute, learn, and further the technological advancements of your esteemed organization.

Best Regards,

Alex Mason

Bad Example for a Software Engineer Position:

​Hey,

I’ve done some coding and worked on a couple of projects. I know Java and a bit of Python. I saw you're hiring, so thought I'd apply. My resume has the details. Let me know if you're interested.

Cheers,

Alex

Why the Bad Example Doesn't Work:

  • Lack of Professional Tone: Starting with "Hey" and using casual language like "done some coding" can undermine the professionalism expected in a cover letter.
  • Lack of Specifics: Statements like “worked on a couple of projects” do not provide a clear picture of the applicant’s experience or capabilities.
  • Lack of Enthusiasm: The letter does not express genuine interest or understanding of the company’s work, making it hard for the hiring manager to gauge the applicant's commitment.
  • Missing Value Proposition: It fails to mention what unique skills or contributions the applicant can offer to the company.

Remember, the objective of a cover letter is to present a compelling case for why you are the ideal candidate for the position, showing both your technical competencies and enthusiasm for the role and company.

Good Example for a Tech Sales Representative Position:

Dear Mr. Clark,

Upon learning of DEF Tech’s expansion into IoT solutions, I was immediately drawn to the potential of contributing as a Tech Sales Representative. With over three years of sales experience at GHI Electronics, I consistently exceeded quarterly targets by 15%, and played a pivotal role in onboarding 50+ B2B clients, particularly for our AI product line.

My deep understanding of technological products, coupled with an innate ability to connect with clients and understand their needs, positions me as an ideal candidate for this role. I'm excited by the opportunity to harness my skills in service of DEF Tech’s mission and growth.

Kind Regards,

Jordan White

Bad Example for a Tech Sales Representative Position:

Hi there,

I’ve been selling tech stuff for a while. Worked at a company before and had some good months. I think I can sell your products too. I’ve attached my CV, check it out and tell me what you think.

Later,

Jordan

Why the Bad Example Doesn't Work:

  • Lack of Professionalism: The informal tone ("Hi there", "selling tech stuff", "had some good months", "Later") does not instill confidence or reflect a professional demeanor expected in a sales role.
  • Vagueness: Phrases like "worked at a company" or "had some good months" are not specific and don’t give an insight into the achievements or capabilities of the applicant.
  • Lack of Enthusiasm: The content lacks genuine interest in the company's products, vision, or the particular role being applied for.
  • Weak Value Proposition: It does not effectively convey what the candidate can offer to the company, nor does it detail past successes in a convincing manner.

A cover letter, especially for a sales role, should communicate both the tangible results you've achieved and the soft skills you possess that enable those results. Demonstrating a genuine understanding of the product you're selling and the market in which the company operates is essential.

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When You Can’t Submit a Cover Letter

In some hiring processes, the traditional route of submitting a cover letter may not be straightforward. Such situations can be puzzling, but with a little creativity, you can make sure your intent and qualifications don’t go unnoticed. Here's a deeper dive into handling these scenarios:

Email Application

Strategy: Use the email body to encapsulate the essence of your cover letter.

Example: 

Subject: Application for Digital Marketing Strategist Position – Jane Doe

Dear Hiring Manager,

I am reaching out to express my keen interest in the Digital Marketing Strategist role at ABC Corp. Having successfully led digital campaigns that increased engagement rates by 40% at my previous role, I am excited about the potential of contributing to ABC Corp’s dynamic team... .

Attached is my detailed resume for your review.

Warm regards,

Jane Doe

Why This Works: The hiring manager instantly sees your motivations and qualifications before even opening your resume. It sets the stage and provides context.

Leverage the Resume

Strategy: If the platform doesn’t allow for a cover letter, amplify the 'Objective' or 'Professional Summary' section of your resume.

Example:

​Professional Summary: Enthusiastic and results-driven Digital Marketing Specialist with 5+ years of experience. Successfully increased ROI by 30% in the previous role by streamlining campaigns. Seeking to leverage expertise for ABC Corp to enhance digital presence and engagement. Passionate about innovative strategies and continuous learning.

Why This Works: This enriched summary provides a snapshot of your skills, achievements, and ambitions right at the start of your resume, capturing attention.

Pro tip

Strategy: When unsure of the platform’s capabilities or if the cover letter is required, always save your cover letter and resume as a single PDF document.

Implementation: First, your cover letter, followed by a page break, and then your resume. This ensures that even if the hiring manager just clicks on ‘resume’, they'll still come across your cover letter first.

Why This Works: It guarantees that your cover letter gets in front of the hiring manager’s eyes even when the system doesn’t have a designated slot for it. It’s a precautionary yet proactive approach.

Conclusion

​In the evolving landscape of job applications, understanding how to present oneself effectively in varying contexts is crucial. Whether it's through an email, modified resume, or combined documents, your objective remains consistent: effectively communicate your value proposition.

In conclusion, the art of crafting a cover letter lies in personalization, precision, and passion. It's not just about fitting into a role but thriving in it. Whether you're at the start of your career or transitioning into a new industry, every cover letter tells a unique story. So, craft yours with care.

Ready to elevate your career game? Come to Careerist. From acquiring knowledge to handholding you through your job search journey, we’re here for you.

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