You probably already know that you need an excellent cover letter to introduce yourself and create a great impression to hiring managers.
Do you also know that you need to customise your cover letter for each position you are applying for and/or each organisation you are trying to get into?
If you thought your CV is the first hurdle to getting your foot in the door, think again.
Even if you have an excellent CV, your chances could be ruined with a shabbily written cover letter. Read on to find out how you can write a meaningful yet short cover letter.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is an introduction letter or email that is sent together with your resume in your job application. Most of us may have seen or know how to write a basic cover letter, but the key is tailoring your cover letter to the organization you are applying for. In case you are not sure about how to write a basic cover letter, click on the link to read our post about it.
In case you ever wondered why your resume doesn’t speak for itself, your cover letter is NOT about repeating what is in your CV! Instead, it should be used as a tool to showcase aspects of yourself that cannot be displayed in the bullet style format of the resume, such as your personality, enthusiasm about the job, best strengths and even a little bit about yourself.
1) Identifying With The Organization
Before starting on the cover letter, it is important to match yourself to the right organization. Working with an organization that resonates with your values or career goals is important to performing well and enjoying your job. Getting to work may already be a struggle for some, so it is worth your while to spend some time finding out what you truly want out of your job and which organization aligns with your interest.
A recommended and simple exercise is to draw two columns on a piece of paper and label them “Me” and “Them” respectively. Next, write down keywords that describe yourself and what you want from your job. In the “Them” column, write down information about the organization you are looking at. This can be derived from their company website, career portal and job descriptions. Lastly, look back at your “Me” list and classify them into career goals, values and personality traits. Link them to similar aspects in the company where possible and you can gauge how well you could fit in the organization.
2) Understanding The Organization
After you have selected a few organizations, read their job descriptions again and make sure you address each point. Just like answering questions in an exam, answering every bullet in the description is ideal because this leads to more ticks on their checklist. However, avoid exaggerating or writing too much. Keep it simple.
Use the exercise you have done earlier to inject keywords into your statements as you go along. Showing research beyond the job description would be a big bonus. The more examples you can give about yourself, the more relevant you will look to the organization. You can choose to direct them to specific parts of your CV for more factual information.
3) Who Are You Writing To
Imagine receiving hundreds of cold emails every day from strangers, when all of a sudden, you discover a particular email that was actually addressed personally to you! While I would not go as far as to say that it will get you hired, it will certainly grab the attention of the hiring manager or clerk to give your letter a read. We often thinking that we are just writing to the “HR department” or “HR Manager”, when in actual fact, they are also people behind a screen like us who would appreciate a personal touch.
An obvious way to find out who you are writing to would be to search online for their contact information. Some companies or government websites have the information of their heads of departments online. The Singapore Government Directory is also a good way to look for the right department to get in touch with if you are applying for jobs in the civil service.
If you are being referred by a friend or ex-colleague, it may do you good to mention him or her as a point of reference. However, do seek permission from your friend or ex-colleague beforehand as the hiring manager may approach them to know more about you.
4) Sell Something Unique About Yourself
To be honest, as cliché as it sounds, the only thing that can truly set your application apart is yourself. What do you have to offer that is so original and outstanding that they just have to hire you? Think about what your friends, colleagues and previous employers have said about you. Then write them down in succinct sentences that deliver both confidence and clarity. Be direct and talk about why you want the job and how your unique skills can improve the organization.
If possible, you can even include something personal about yourself that is related to the organization. For example, if you were applying to Apple, you can mention that you have only used iPhones since iPhone 1 first came out. This piques interest about you as a person but is not entirely irrelevant to your job.
If you have a LinkedIn Profile, you may add a link at the bottom of your cover letter, but do make sure you spend some time updating it before you do. Think of it as another source of information to let the employers know you better, such as your career interests or the events in the industry that you attend.