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The Interview-winning Cover Letter

Your cover letter is a document (usually one-page) which you submit as part of your job application. It is where you underscore the work experiences listed in your CV/resume. While a cover letter is not where you repeat everything in your CV verbatim, it is a great place to highlight your achievements with all the words the recruiter is looking for. You should always include a cover letter, unless the recruiter has said not to. In this post, we present four tips to make your cover letter stand out. Read on, and don’t forget to share!

1. Address your letter to a ‘person’

Some job advertisements come with the name and/or title of the person who is managing the hiring process. So, in your recipient address, you should have ‘The Recruitment Manager’, ‘The Hiring Manager’, ‘The Human Resource Manager’, or whatever title was provided in the advertisement. Next, your salutation should include the actual name of the person who holds the title you wrote in the recipient address. If the advertisement does not provide a name, you can call the company to ask for one. You should, however, not address them casually or by their first name or alias, for example, ‘Hi Becca’. Address them formally: ‘Dear Ms Johnson’.

‘Dear Madam/Sir’ should be your last option – if you really tried all means to get a name to no avail or you genuinely did not have enough time before the deadline to make those enquiries.

Why is all this important? Every recruiter likes that applicant who has taken time to research their company before submitting their application. If finding a name won’t hurt and it can increase your chances of getting an interview, why not?

2. Get a well worded introduction

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression! If the recruiter is going to want to go ahead to read the rest of your letter – and proceed to read your CV – you need to show them it will be worth their while. An introduction that contains errors is a killjoy – especially for someone who has a lot of other applications to peruse. Here is your chance to grab their attention for good. Don’t write something like:

Dear Ms Doe,
I am writing to express my interest in the position of Assistant Communications Officer at XYZ company. I have three years’ experience and I believe I am the best fit for this job.

Most of the other applicants have three years’ experience, too. Or even more. So, introducing your letter in this manner cannot rivet their attention on your application enough, can it? Take a look at our attention-grabbing example below:

Dear Ms Doe,
I am writing to express my interest in the position of Assistant Communications Officer at XYZ company. I believe that my work experience in communication strategy development, stakeholder engagement, community management, and corporate branding have equipped me with the skills necessary to be a successful candidate for this position.

Now even I want to hear what more this applicant has to say.

3. Use keywords

More and more hiring processes are becoming automated. These automated systems are programmed to search for keywords which the recruiter is looking out for. Using relevant keywords can thus get you selected.  For example, if you are applying for a job that requires three years’ experience in monitoring, evaluation, and data collection and analytics, you can put the keywords together in the paragraph after your introduction as:

In the last three years, I have gained relevant experience in the collection, collation, analysis, and reporting of high-quality and audit-worthy data. In my role at ABC company, I supported the...

This is a great way to get your application noticed. Do a little Google search on the role you’re applying for. This will help you to find keywords relevant to the position. With the right combination of keywords, opportunity knocks!

4. Speak the company’s language

Apart from tailoring your cover letter to match the requirements of the job (as you may have read in this post), adjust it to reflect the company’s values, too. For example, if the company has ‘diversity’ as a value, you can have a sentence like this somewhere in the body of your letter:

My ability to work with people from diverse cultural backgrounds is evidenced in my role at ABC company, where I received inputs from four advisors from the northern, central, and western parts of the XYZ region to successfully deploy synergistic outputs for the company’s website.

Again, this means you need to do your research to find out the company’s values. You’ll find most companies’ values in the ‘About Us’ section of their website. Woo them with their own values – and thank me later.

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