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How to write a power-packed cover letter

Last updated on: August 6, 2010 21:48 IST

To begin with, let me define a 'cover letter'. It is a letter that accompanies your resume and introduces you, highlighting your reasons for sending the resume to the particular employer. A cover letter must accompany ALL non-electronic resume postings. For e-mail, you should substitute the cover letter with a short introduction in the body of the e-mail. So, why send a cover letter in the first place?

The role of the cover letter is to get the hiring manager to say: " know what, I want to meet this person for this job opening." So what should you write in the cover letter that will get you the nod from the hiring manager. To start with, remember that a good cover letter is not a cover letter at all, it's a SALES letter! Let's go through the process of building the sales letter now.

How to address the recipient
Address a specific recipient. It's not always easy to find the name of the specific hiring manager, but try to do so if possible. Usually, you can just call the company and ask who the hiring manager is for a given position.

Inappropriate address:

"Dear Sir or Madam"

"To Whom It May Concern."

This lazy approach will show that you were not concerned enough to find out whom to address your letter.

Appropriate address: "Dear..."

In the worst-case scenario, your letter could begin with "Dear Hiring Manager for ".

Amit Bansal is a Career Counsellor, Trainer and CEO of PurpleLeap.


Convince the hiring manager that you are the best fit for the job

Paragraph 1

Opening: Say why you are a good fit for the job.
The cover letter must target a specific position. If you're answering an ad, it's easy to target your letter to a specific job. But if you're making cold calls to employers, you'll have to do some research to find out what positions are open.

Try old ads for job postings at job portals and company website. Don't list several possible positions or say that you're willing to consider any position.

Weak opening:
'I am writing today to apply for the account manager position you have posted on your company website.'

Better opening:
'I have increased the size and sales levels of my client base in every position I have held, which in turn has increased the revenues and profits of my employers. I want to bring this same success to the account position you have posted on your website.'

Paragraph 2: Synopsis

Make a mention of academic and professional experience relevant to the job. Provide details about your professional and academic qualifications. Provide more information about how you can provide the benefits you mentioned in the first paragraph. Be sure to stress accomplishments and achievements rather than job duties and responsibilities.

Expand on specific items from your resume that are relevant to the job you are seeking. Use solid action verbs to describe your accomplishments and achievements.

Weak synopsis:
'I have an MBA from XYZ Business School with an aggregate of 76%. I have completed my BE in the year 2007 with 82% marks. I have worked as a Summer Trainee in ZBC Company for 2 months.'

You are wasting stationary by just restating the resume that does not provide any additional information.

Strong synopsis:
'I have formal training in business management with a keen interest in the area of Event Management. The exceptional organisational abilities and detail orientation I deployed to conduct college festivals at my college, are directly applicable to the skills needed for event management. With exposure to interacting with corporate for fund-raising, I can prospect new business opportunities, successfully manage client relationships, give presentations, and much more.'

You must be proactive in your approach

Paragraph 3: Relate

Tie yourself to the job/ company. If you are answering an ad or online job posting, the specifics of your cover letter should be tied as closely as possible to the actual wording of the ad. Echo the ad's words and intent.

Weak relation:
'I would like to apply for the job of Software Programmer in ABC Company.'

Strong relation:
'I have a strong background in programming. I came across this opportunity with ABC Company and found it very exciting. It matches my interest and skills in the area of mobile computing and I can contribute to the success of the organisation while pursuing my professional goals.'

Final paragraph:

A call to action: Set the stage for the interview call.

You want to get an interview call so do not be vague about it. Come right out, ask for an interview and then follow up. If you take this proactive approach, you are much more likely to get called for interviews than if you did not follow up.

Weak call to action:
'I hope you will consider my resume favourably and consider me for the position. I look forward to hearing from you.'

Strong call to action:
'I look forward to being interviewed at your earliest convenience. Thank you so much for this opportunity. If you require any additional information, I can be contacted at the phone numbers listed above.'

Remember that a cover letter is the most important part in your sales package. The product is you. Like any other sales letter, you are trying to motivate a specific action. You want the employer to invite you for an interview. A well thought-out, dynamic cover letter can attract the employer's attention and get your phone ringing!

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