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Guidelines on writing a cover letter

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Writing a cover letter is not always the most enjoyable aspect in a job search when applying for jobs. Although recently companies do not require them, it is still important to know how to write them. The following tips are for more senior positions and experienced professionals with more than six years of experience:

1) Types of cover letters - using a generic template will not always work, and depending on how you found out about the job or your job search strategy a specific type of letter will work better.

  • Application letter (targeting a job in a job advertisement)
  • Referral cover letter (name of person who referred you for job)
  • Letter of interest/prospecting letter (inquiring about possible openings at a company)
  • Networking letters (asking for job search advice and assistance).

2) Be concise. Obviously state the details you need related to the job posting while leaving some details for the interview. I know this is tricky - and remember, practice improves your writing. State very clearly how you meet the requirements for the job posting.

3) Leave out, “I am applying for….” They know why you are sending in the cover letter, no need to write it in the cover letter. Introduce yourself along the lines of, “As an SME within the area of _________ I have seven years of experience with the following areas (list them out)”……….” or “As an HR Professional, I specialize in Leadership, Communication and Administrative Management. I have worked within the HR Industry for the past six years.” There is a way to brag about yourself and sound professional at the same time, the trick is do it properly.

4) Avoid the use of “I” all throughout the cover letter. It’s not just about you, it is about the employer; you are asking them to invest in you for a position. What is their return going to be? The return on investment is not just your salary or your benefits - but an increase in productivity for your department, or enhanced communication skills within your team; revamping processes to be more effective- the list could go on. Why should the employer hire you?

5) Be professional with your cover letter format- business letter format should be used, with one-inch margins on all sides.

6) The tone of your cover letter should not read like you are face to face talking with them. Read your cover letter out loud, have someone read it to you and also ask for feedback from a mentor. Polish it so when a recruiter reads it, the tone is that polished, professional and amazing.

7) Lastly, your cover letter is your sales pitch, what personal/unique qualities about you, allow you to be the best candidate for the job? It’s one thing to repeat what you have on your resume in your cover letter but, your personality is what determines your fit. Sell your professional brand, not just your resume.

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