Cover Letters: Necessary Companions to Resumes
“How wonderful it is to be able to write someone a letter! To feel like conveying your thoughts to a person, to sit at your desk and pick up a pen, to put your thoughts into words like this is truly marvelous.”
― Haruki Murakami, Contemporary Japanese Writer
This quote, by one of my favorite authors, holds true even for cover letters. Ofcourse, in today’s age of technology, the pen will be replaced by your computer! While your resume talks about you and your past (experience and achievements), your cover letter should focus on your prospective employer and the future. An effective cover letter should build rapport with the hiring manager by identifying and addressing points that you have in common with him/her.
A winning cover letter should address your prospective employers’ needs rather than your own needs. It should address the employer’s problems and your recommendations for resolving/reducing them. Also, it should include information on how you believe you ‘fit’ in the company and how hiring you will give them a good return on their investment (in you).
The Segments of an Effective Cover Letter
The first part of your cover letter should be fresh and attention-grabbing. Your first line should make the reader curious enough to go through the entire cover letter and enclosed/attached resume. This introductory paragraph should also indicate the position that you are applying for, the reason for your interest in the company and position, and include a few competencies that demonstrate your strengths.
Strategies for writing a strong opening:
- Create intrigue/reveal a secret (interpersonal skills and work habits) about yourself
- Start with an inspirational, relevant quote
- State an interesting fact/statistic relevant to the position applied for
The sales pitch, the second part of the cover letter should communicate your brand, talk about the employer’s needs, and convince the employer that you are able to fulfill these needs. This section should support your resume, not replicate it.
What to include in this section:
- A summary of your achievements that define your success. This part should be connected to your resume but, should NOT be a copy of it
- Your knowledge about the prospective employer and company’s issues, and a demonstration of your abilities to address these issues
- Pertinent information not included in the resume (examples: career change, unique value propositions, and others)
The close should provide a summary of what you bring to the table and include a ‘Call to Action’ in the form of a meeting, a follow-up phone call, or it can invite the reader(s) to initiate action.
That’s it! You have created a winning cover letter – you have sat at your desk, switched on your computer, and put your thoughts into words to convey it to your prospective employer.