If a CV is a snapshot of who you are professionally, then a cover letter is what you use to sell your skills and experience to an Employer. A cover letter is normally sent out with CV and it provides additional information on why you are qualified for the position and how your skills match the job requirements. Literally speaking, a cover letter is a sales pitch that aims at getting you to the second stage of the hiring process, which is an interview.
Compared to a CV, a cover letter is one of the most challenging to write. Why? It involves stringing together professional and sensible sentences that will show how matured and of an asset you are. We should remember that many people don’t like writing and this makes the whole process of coming up with this piece of the document even more challenging.
Before we get into what makes a cover letter good enough to get you invited for an interview, first let’s see what a cover letter contains.
1. Contact Information
Conventionally, the Applicant should start the Cover Letter with their contact information and that of the Employer. Depending on the letter-writing convention, this can be on the same side, or the Applicant’s address can be on the right, followed by the Employer’s on the left. Since in most cases the application is addressed to the HR Department or a recruitment agency, this should inform the way you will start the Employer’s address.
After the addresses, continue your Cover Letter with a salutation. There are several cases you will need to take into account. If you know the name of the person that will receive your application then you can use the initials like Dr./Mr./Ms. followed by their last name e.g. Dear Ms. Kalinga or Dear Mr. Mkumba. Sometimes, you might not know if your contact is male or female with names like Faraja or Bahati. In this case, it is advised to write their full name e.g. Dear Faraja Faya. In most cases, you will not know the name of the person who will go through your application. If this is the case, then use Dear Hiring Manager or Dear “Company Name” recruiter. Always punctuate the salutation with a comma e.g Dear Mr. Mkumba,
3. Subject Line
Conventionally, the Cover Letter will have the subject line that tells the hiring manager or the recruiter the job you are applying for. E.g RE: Marketing Officer Position. You can bold it or underline it. There are people who would add where they saw the job or the vacancy number e.g RE: Marketing Officer | Advertised on BrighterMonday Tanzania. Try to use only one line so you can have more space to sell your skills and experience.
After the subject line, introduce the job you are applying for and where you heard it. Then briefly, expound in a sentence or two how your skills and experience match the requirements of the position you are applying for. Remember, the objective of the introduction is to catch the attention of the hiring manager or the recruiter. Show excitement and personalize the introduction.
E.g. I am happy to send my application for the Marketing Officer position as advertised on XYZ Newspaper. Having worked for three years developing marketing strategies, implementing and evaluating marketing plans, I believe that I will be able to support the generation of leads for your organization.
This is the playground you will use to sell yourself. Show them that you have what it takes. Convince them to invite you for an interview. Do this in a paragraph or two. The best way to show that you are cut out for this job is to pick up specific requirements and skills indicated in the adverts and demonstrate how they match your skills, experience and education.
In the conclusion, you can restate your experience and skills and how those will be of an asset to the company. You can reiterate your motivation for applying for this position. Say that you welcome the opportunity for an interview and finish off by thanking the hiring manager or the recruiter for reading and considering your application.
Use a complimentary closing at the end of your Cover Letter, followed by your full name. A formal complimentary close might be something like Sincerely, Yours faithfully, Yours truly, Cordially, etc. Avoid using informal closing like Cheers, Always, Bye.