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Dispatch your skills with a cover letter

 
 

Five tips for a killer cover letter

  No spelling or typing errors. Not even one.
  Address it to the person who can hire you.
  Write it in your own words so that it sounds like you-not like something out of a book.
  Show that you know something about the company and the industry.
  Use terms and phrases that are meaningful to the employer

ob search etiquette mandates that a well-crafted resume be accompanied by a brief cover letter. The cover letter offers job applicants a unique opportunity to market one's key skills to the recruiting manager. Most candidates banking on the assumption that cover letters are never read write a brief three-lines, "This is with reference to the advertisement dated so and so. I would like to apply for the post of.... and am, thereby, enclosing my resume." Although, acceptable, this does not distinguish a potential employee from other applicants. Considering the number of hours you spent getting every detail of your resumé just right, a well-crafted, compellingly written cover letter sets you apart as a professional and can considerably enhance your candidature. Remember, the cover letter is just as important as your resume. While the function of the resume is to sell one's hard skills, the function of the cover letter is to deploy one's soft skills to explain to the recruiter why he should be interested in you and why you are interested in the job. Instead of writing a tailor made cover letter, many candidates pen a generic cover letter and send it to a number of companies. In order to impress your skills on the prospective employer and demonstrate that your talents are of interest to the particular firm, the cover letter must be customised to suit their specific requirements.

The Script: Most job applicants are flummoxed when it comes to writing a one-page cover letter, which effectively accomplishes the two tasks. AssureConsulting.com scripts the lines which will set your resume in context:

Begin with:
Your name,
Your mailing address,
Your phone number and
The date

Addressed to

A good general rule for salutations is not to use the recipient's first name, unless you've been personally introduced and have already referred to that person by first name in conversation. Be sure to spell the name of the person correctly. If you do not know the person who will be reading the letter, direct it to the Human Resource Manager.

Mr/Ms...,
Title,
Company name,
Company address.

Dear Mr/Ms. Recipient,

The first paragraph should announce the purpose of the letter and must not take more than four lines. The lead sentence should state the position you are pursuing and where you saw or heard the about the opening. If someone mentioned the job opening to you, be sure to use his or her name in the introduction: "I am writing to you at the suggestion of Mr. Niraj Misra who told me you may be looking for a senior programmer." If you're responding to an advertisement for a job, say so in your letter: "I am applying for the marketing manager position advertised in the Times oF India on 23 jan, 2000 and would like to tell you about my qualifications."

The second paragraph must enthuse the recruiter about your candidature by informing him how you are the perfect fit for the requirement at hand. This can be done by highlighting your work experience the most relevant skill and experience from your resumé in great detail. The job advertisement will provide cues on what needs to be highlighted. For instance, if a job advertisement insists that experience in TC\IP Protocols essential, you must highlight your experience and in-depth knowledge in the area.

Ideal length: 4 - 5 Lines.

In the third paragraph, explain why you are interested in the job. This is an opportunity to show your awareness and enthusiasm about what the company does. Work a fact or observation about the company that isn't common knowledge into your opening paragraph. Such a statement tells the reader you've done some homework and it sets you apart as a serious and genuine candidate.

Ideal length: 8 - 10 Lines

In the second section of the same paragraph briefly emphasise the strengths and energy you can bring to the job. These could include your ability to work autonomously, handle stress, your project management savvy etc. Include strengths that will set you apart and provide specific examples from the last one ear of your career. Avoid trite cliches such as "I am a people person," "Teamwork is my middle name, your company is known as the creme de la creme of software firms," I am as smart as a whip." Such phrases devalue rather than enhance your cover letter.

Round off the letter, by thanking the reader for their time and by leaving your contact address. You could say, "I would like to learn more about working as a engineer at National Semiconductors. You can reach me at [phone number and/or e-mail]. I look forward to hearing from you soon."

Ideal length: 2 - 3 Lines

End the letter with Yours Sincerely Yours truly or Yours Cordially.

Related Links

Five Rogue Resume Tribes

Five Rogue Interview Tribes

Bowl your recruiters with a High Powered Resume

Surehire Ways to Call the Shots at the Interview

The ring of a successful telephonic interview

Money is not a five letter dirty word

Avoid Overusing The Personal Pronoun I: Since a cover letter is a personal response, it is inevitable that the letter will recur many times. This lends the letter a certain monotony. Although not entirely avoidable you could cut on its usage. For instance, instead of stating, "My responsibilities as a programmer involved, you could say, "The responsibilities the job entailed were ....

Tone: The tone of the cover letter should reflect your professionalism. Remember you are about to forge a business relationship with the prospective recruiter and are not addressing a friend or family member. Hence, an over-familiar or jocular tone will not impress your prospective recruiter. Many candidates err on the right side by assuming a pompous tone. Keep the letter simple and avoid jargon and sentences which sound off-landish such as: "My candidature would make essential value additions to the company's bottomline. This sounds pretentious, whereas "I am certain I will be able to use my skills to improve productivity, does not."

Edit The Cover Letter: Do not forget to use the command Alt TS, after you frame the cover letter. Spellers not only deflect attention from the content of the letter, but also reveal a lack of eye for detail and have a negative impact on your candidature. Remember, the MS word spell check will not record every spelling error. Therefore, considering the amount of time you have spent framing the letter, do ensure that the name of the company, the name of the post is correctly spelt. Ask a friend or family members to weed out the grammatical errors to which you have become immune.

Having paid adequate attention to the content, concentrate on the appearance of the cover letter. The cover letter must be written clearly on a piece of white paper. Use the same font as you have used to type your resume and avoid sending copies of letters where words are smudged or the paper on which it is written is frayed or yellow.

Assure's Final Word: Do not forget to attach your resume to the cover letter.
 

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