The Key To A Cover Letter
The cover letter is the first introduction between yourself and your potential employer. It is not a reiteration of your résumé, but rather an explanation of HOW your skills were developed. It has been a privilege to review several cover letters by many undergraduates, professionals and even PhD students. These candidates have convinced themselves that the cover letter is a tool for repetition. The cover letter is prime real estate. The space must be used efficiently and effectively with the proper tone, language and structure to grasp the attention of the reader.
An example of what not to write in your cover letter:
“I participated in a summer internship at Petrotrin’s undergraduate programme in 2017. There I was able to learn about every aspect of Petrotrin, including accounts, communications and risk management with twelve (12) undergraduate students. I was presented with deadlines from each department with monthly reports to our supervisor.”
Sounds fantastic doesn’t it? However, the above paragraph can be bulleted in your résumé and has no place within your cover letter. What your employer wants to know is HOW you managed to gain specific skills at a particular place of employment. The above extraction should be written as:
“My experience at Pertrotrin’s undergraduate programme taught me the value of multitasking, teamwork and time management. The programme immersed myself and eleven (11) other undergraduate students in three (3) core departments. Each department provided us with tight deadlines, with clear accountability procedures, generated thorough monthly reports submitted to our supervisor.”
Did we just use ‘big’ words to make our paragraph look better? I truly wish this was the case! If we could use ‘big’ words for every professional document, we all might as well be managers! There was thought and effort placed into constructing the second paragraph. Let’s evaluate some of the core differences.
• Humility- One of the biggest errors in any cover letter is the overuse of the word ‘I’. The tone of your cover letter must be the perfect balance between humility and confidence.
• Language- Choose your words wisely! If you are a professional, use professional language and jargon that your employer may understand.
• Skills- For each job portfolio, identify the skills that you learned while you were there. If you had three (3) jobs, each job can make up one paragraph. Each paragraph can illustrate the type of skills you acquired. These skills must be strategically linked to the job description advertised. This would increase your chances of being shortlisted.
In essence the key point is to understand is that the cover letter is all about answering the question of HOW? Your résumé answers WHAT? Collectively they answer the question WHY? The employer must understand why you are applying for this job. Crafting a well-constructed cover letter is the first step to getting yourself into the interview room.
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