Writing Winning Cover Letters
|Writing Winning Cover Letters by People Matters Ltd
By People Matters
Your cover letter should immediately capture the readers’ attention so that your potential employer turns the page and reads your CV. Upon reading, your future boss should know how you would be of benefit to their business.
Hints and Tips
A cover letter is a business letter and should be written as such. You should:
· Address the letter to a person, not a function.
· Find out the Sales Director’s name if you do not know it.
· Spell the name correctly and ensure that it is gender correct. For example, is ‘Pat’ a man or a woman?
· Type the letter unless a hand written letter is specifically requested (this is rare).
· Proofread the letter thoroughly.
· Sign the letter above the typed version of your name.
· Ensure a balanced look on the page.
· Write the letter on a plain white, A4 sheet of paper.
Format of Letter
There are two distinct types of cover letters. Use one format when you are applying for a position that has been advertised and the other when you are sending a speculative application.
The cover letter is a simple yet powerful document containing three key paragraphs:
1. Opening paragraph
The opening paragraph provides you with the opportunity to state the purpose of your letter. For example, ‘your company recently advertised for a Sales Manager in the Dublin Digest on 22 October 2004’.
If it is a speculative application, hook the reader in by referring to a mutual contact or complimenting his/her company. For example, ‘your company has an excellent reputation for providing high quality customer service. I have successfully worked in such an environment’.
2. Body of letter
In this section you should highlight your skills and achievements and relate these to the needs of the company. Outline how you match the position using the words and phrases mentioned in their advertisement. For example, ‘experienced manager’, ‘expanded customer base’, ‘excellent leadership skills’, etc.
For direct approach letters, even though there is no advertisement to work from, use your knowledge of the role to write a powerful pitch. For example, if you are applying for sales positions in the pharmaceutical industry, use terminology such as ‘quality conscience’, ‘highly regulated’ and ‘consistently exceeded customer expectations’.
3. Closing paragraph
Your closing paragraph should indicate to the reader the outcome that you want. Depending on the nature of the letter, your closing statement will fall in to one of two categories.
If you are writing in response to an advertisement you should mention that you want the application to lead to an interview. For example, ‘please find attached my CV and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my skills at interview’.
For speculative letters, your closing paragraph should ask for a meeting and explain that you will take the next step by contacting the reader to arrange a meeting within a specified period of time. If you state a timeframe stick to it! For example, ‘please find attached my CV and I will contact you in early November to arrange a meeting to discuss my skills’.
In summary, a cover letter is fundamentally a way of getting your foot in the door of your prospective employer’s company. You do this successfully everyday of your working life, so apply your sales techniques to your job search!
NOTES TO EDITOR
People Matters is a soft skills training, consulting and career coaching company. Sue Mulhall is the founder and Director of People Matters.
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