By Daniel Olivan on March 3, 2016
Whenever people talk about job applications, they immediately think of two things: the CV or the resume, and the interview. They put a lot of effort in making themselves look and sound good on paper, and, especially for the jobs they really want, they can take hours preparing for questions in the interview room.
However, what people easily forget is a crucial, and sometimes game-changing, third element in the application process: the cover letter.
But hold on — FastCompany's Stephanie Vozza argues that the cover letter is dead, especially since social media presence can stand in for what the cover letter usually does: give a personalized twist to your application. So what gives? Why are we still talking about this?
That's because we ignore the new form the cover letter has taken: the cover email. For most of your applications, this will be your first point of contact with recruiters. They might only have seconds to skim through your application, but if certain keywords stand out — keywords, for example, that matter to to the job post or the vacancy, or even personally to the recruiter — that can raise your chances actually being considered in the first place.
Here are some tips to help you write the cover email (which you'll be sending with the PDF or .doc file of your CV and/or your portfolio). It's better than an empty email, trust me.
Address the letter to the right person
No one likes to be called "Dear all" or "To whom it may concern." And that includes recruiters. They will appreciate it if you took the find out the name (and maybe the face, too, if you're diligent enough to research online) behind the job post.
Unless you were specifically told to address the letter this way, you should try your best to find out who will be directly handling your application. Check the job post to see if they name a specific addressee. If there's none, try to call the company (or email them if they're overseas) and ask for a name.
Explain briefly why you're applying
Even if you're writing the letter in email form, it doesn't change the purpose of the cover letter. You're writing it to add your personal flair to the application. What made you apply to this company? Why do you want this job in the first place?
There's no need to elaborate with your explanation, but give them a sentence or two that will show what made you interested in the company and the job. It will show that you've done your research, and know more or less what you're applying for.
Don't Repeat Your Resume
The whole point of writing a cover letter is to personalize your application, so just repeating all your accomplishments and credentials will defeat the purpose of the whole activity. The cover letter and the resume have to show two different things about you.
Write here what you usually can't express in a resume, such as why a specific experience in an NGO makes you fit for the job. Or maybe the reason why you're so passionate about their organization. Whatever you choose to write, keep it brief, keep it simple, keep it professional. Don't go overboard.
One Page Is Enough
If recruiters take the time to read through your cover letter, they won't have long to take in what you've written. Prioritize readability over flair in writing, and make it a rule not to exceed one page's length when it comes to writing your cover letter.
By one page, I mean around letter size, Times New Roman, font size 12-14. Anything longer than that may put you straight to the Ignore pile.
Still not confident you can write your own letter? Download a template you can try out by clicking the link below: