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Covering letters do matter

Covering letters do matter

A covering letter should express why you are interested in a particular position and why you believe you are the best candidate for the job. There are three basic elements to consider. Below are the aims and objectives of each.

Why should we write a cover letter?

You should be aware of the fact that an employer’s first assessment of a prospective employee is based upon the style and content of their cover letter. Therefore it is vital that your cover letter be clear, concise and effective. The aim of your letter is to provide supplementary information to that given in your CV, consequently it is important not to repeat information stated in your CV but to expand on it and show how you fulfil the requirements of the vacant position. In your cover letter you should attempt to tailor any previous professional experience, skills and qualifications to match the particular vacancy. Finally, include not only professional experiences but also social interests and other skills such as language abilities.

Part 1 – Attracting the reader’s attention

One of the easiest ways to attract the attention of the reader is to address the letter directly to the person conducting the initial selection process. Rather than addressing your reader with a generic greeting of ‘Dear sir/madam’ or ‘Human Resources Manager’ it is better to find out the name of the person who will receive your cover letter and address it to them directly. This approach can show the employer that you have initiative and resourcefulness. The introduction should be concise and comprehensible, it should include information about which specific position you are applying for and how you learned about the job offer. Overall, the contents of your letter will depend on whether you are applying for a specific vacant position or you are simply presenting yourself to the company in view of a possible future vacancy.

Part 2 - Explanation and clarification

Once you have attracted the attention of the reader your next task is to convince them of your suitability for the position in question. When applying in response to an advertised post, you must relate your qualifications and experience to the particular requirements of the job. If no job requirements were listed, imagine the perfect candidate and attempt to adapt your letter accordingly.

Emphasise what you have to offer the employer, describe your strengths in accordance with their requirements. For example, "My experience working in the hospital allowed me to work with an international group of people and gain practical skills (processing confidential patient information)" or, "completion of the management course enabled me to better organise my own work and that of the team".

In this section of the cover letter you should expand upon particular aspects of your CV and how they relate specifically to the requirements of the vacant post, for example, "...because you are looking for a qualified doctor, I have attached references from my previous place of employment, in which I was able to achieve success."

Your cover letter should also include some information regarding your personal characteristics. It is worth pointing out your involvement not only in your field of study and employment but also how you have developed a variety of skills in other areas outside of your professional life. For example, "... apart from gaining technical knowledge during my studies, I had the opportunity to improve my relationships with people. As vice president of the student association I was responsible for the organisation of over a dozen events for incoming students. I believe the skills I developed during that time will be valuable in my future career.” You can also refer directly to your CV: “…further information regarding my financial management experience can be found in my CV”. It is important to be confident and convincing when communicating your skills and abilities, use positive expressions such as: “I can”, “I am capable” and “I achieved”.

Part 3 - Encouraging a response

After having accurately presented yourself, you need to prompt the reader to get in contact you. Ask to be invited for an interview. When applying for a job in another country, request an application form or suggest holding the interview in a branch which is convenient for both parties.

Finally, you should conclude your letter with a phrase such as, "... I believe that my skill-set matches perfectly with your requirements. I would welcome the opportunity for an interview with your organization. Thank you for your time and consideration, I am available at your convenience”.

In Summary

Cover letters and CVs are two separate documents that employers look at when selecting candidates for interviews. The documents need to be clear, concise and consistent. They need to convince the employer you are a good candidate for the job and deserve an interview. Research the employer and personalise the cover letter to the reader. Adapt your qualifications and experience to meet the job requirements. Encourage a response from the reader - ask for a convenient time to meet in person for an interview.