As all jobseekers know, a cover letter is usually required when applying for a job. This includes a brief introduction of yourself, your previous experience, and the reason why you’re applying for that very position. Sounds vague? It might be, just like the templates you can find online. So, what does it really take to write a good cover letter? Here are some tips for you.
1) Tailor your cover letter to the job. As suggested in our previous post on CVs, the cover letter should also be adapted to each single application. So, if you were thinking about preparing one standard letter to send out everywhere around the globe, think again… this will require some work on your part! Remember to address your letter to the appropriate recipient: HR, secretary, employer… this info is usually available on the job posting.
2) Avoid writing more than one page. This suggestion applies to most cases, except when the ad mentions the appropriate length of the cover letter (e.g., if it says “two pages maximum,” then do go for two pages). In the absence of instructions, consider that people usually have little time to spare and generally do not care much for reading two entire pages filled with text.
3) Solid text blocks are a no-go. Ideally, you want the body of your letter to be split in three paragraphs. These should grow in tone following a sort of climax. In the first, you’ll introduce yourself and explain for which position you’re applying: list your main titles and requisites (degree, relevant work experience, etc.). The first paragaph should state all the necessary information to clarify that you do have the basic requirements for the job, so the employer can read further to find out more about you. In the second paragraph, you’ll tell more about yourself, highlighting those aspects that make you the perfect candidate. Finally, it’s time to show that you know the firm (you will take care or reading up on them in advance, at least by checking the “about us” page on their website!) and to illustrate why they would make a big mistake not hiring you.
4) Explain your own “why”. Anyone can tell what they’ve done and how, but can you tell why? This is about expressing your core beliefs. What are your goals, your dreams? How do you wish to contribute to society? If they actually hired you for that job, what would you do with it? What makes you get up in the morning? If the answer to this is “I just want a salary,” then perhaps we’re not really talking about your dream job. Try taking some time to consider this, and remember that, if this is not the job you want, your interviewer will be able to tell. If, in contrast, there is something bigger driving you in that direction, then go ahead and tell about it! Enthusiasm, a drive to change things or create new ones, dedication, and passion are more appreciated than the titles of your internships.
5) Use key words. Take that job ad. Summarize it as far as you can. What are the most important words, those that completely describe the type of job and the competences that are required to carry it out? There, those are your key words. Place them here and there throughout your cover letter (where they make sense, of course). Sometimes texts are screened by software to search for those very terms in your letter, so this can be an extremely important detail.
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