Let's face it. Recruiters (or employers) are smarter than we think. Bigger organizations pay a hefty salary to their HR department to filter out and sieve through hundreds and thousands of resumes. The idea is to build an organization with people of the right mental aptitude. Most of the top organizations believe strongly in a motto - "People are their greatest assets". Your cover letter goes a long way in capturing and retaining the attention of these people whose main job is to recruit people and coordinate with the workforce.
A well-written cover letter engages the recruiter and pushes him to spend more time reading your detailed resume. Before you start off writing your cover letter, write down what you want to convey on a paper. Read it once, twice, thrice and then set off for a good start. Pack in as much power as you can, because it is these 400 or 500 words that can make the difference.
Have these things on your mind before you start off writing:
Keep your sentences short and avoid using really long sentences because you don't want the recruiter to read it twice to understand what you're trying to convey. Got the point.? Keep your sentences s-h-o-r-t.
Keep your language simple. "I take immense pleasure in applying for this esteemed position in this esteemed organization." Hell.! Your employer knows more about his organization than you do. So you can as well cut the "false" praise. Maybe a subtle mention can do wonders. "I look forward to work with JK Industries".
Organize the content of your cover letter into small paragraphs or bulleted points, not exceeding three paragraphs. Typically each paragraph can contain 3 or 4 sentences.
Do NOT use slang or spoken words like "Lookin' fo a kewl break into yo IT world".
Make sure your cover letter (and resume) is free from spelling or grammatical errors.
And most important: Deliver what the employer is looking for.
So, what should you put in your cover letter?
Ask yourself two questions. One, why should the employer choose you over others? And two, what can you give to the company that others cant? Skills, yes. Proven experience, better.
A good way to start writing is with the correct greeting phrase. If you know the name of the person you are addressing then you can start with 'Dear Ms. Stevenson' or 'Dear Mr. Washington'. Do not use their first names. A bad greeting would be 'Hi Jane' or 'Hello George'.
The first paragraph is to contain a reference. If this is a response to an advertisement or a vacancy listing, this is where you refer to get their attention. Alternatively you can put in a separate line mentioning your reference. (Ref: Your advertisement on Jobsite.com - Ref # 12345).
If you're mentioning your reference in the first paragraph, you can continue on to include why you applied for that position. A good way of connecting the reference to your application is "my skills and your requirement are a good match." Put that in your own words.
In the next paragraph, you justify your statement about why you think that your skills and the skills required for the position are a good match. Make a single line reference to a particular achievement in your current (or previous) job that is along similar lines so that the employer will know exactly what he's looking for. A good example would be "Set up a fully operational network of franchisees in Southern France for retailing ABC Coffee".
Avoid mentioning skills you don't have or projects you have never worked on. Because sooner or later, you're going to face it; when the interviewer looks into your cover letter (or resume) and says "OK, Mr. Stephens, can you give me an instance of how you can use XML to port data from a backend system into a Middleware application"? And that's when you mind starts racing, "XML?? Middleware?? Port..?? Is that my resume he's got..???". God bless you if it's not your resume.
If there are more achievements you want to include, write them down in bulleted points. It's easier for the employer to read, comprehend and get a good picture of your capabilities. Do not reproduce your entire resume here. 2 or 3 such points will do perfectly fine. Of course, do not include irrelevant achievements like "Won a Silver Medal in 200 x 4 Men's Relay Race conducted by Louisville Young Adults Club in 1991". Not unless you're applying for the post of a Physical Trainer or Coach.
You have made your point here. You know why you're applying. And recruiters like that. You know your responsibilities, the risks involved and the tasks you'll be handling. You're just the person they're looking for. At least, you're one of the persons they'd like to talk to before handing over the employment contract.
An ending note can make quite an impression. Tell them your resume is attached and that you're "looking forward to explore this opportunity further". Include an address and telephone number for them to contact you.
Sign off with a "Yours Truly" or "Best Regards" and put your complete name under it.
Get into form and write out your winning cover letter.
by Amit Pujar
Amit Pujar is a copywriter/technical writer currently heading the content department of an online publication. Amit writes on a variety of subjects and is currently working on his first non-fiction.