The 4 Paragraphs That Make a Killer Cover Letter
Looking for a job especially now with the pandemic isn’t as easy as preparing a resume and filing it over to recruitment. Nope. There might sometimes be a need for a voice recording or a video introduction. Recruitment departments follow a meticulous process in their talent pool selection. But the main star that we will need to tackle in this piece is the cover letter.
What is a cover letter?
By definition, a cover letter is a document accompanying your curriculum vitae. It should contain the qualities the hiring company is looking for.
In short, it’s your chance to sell yourself as the best. Think of it as a banner that tells the hiring company that you are the most suitable candidate for the role. This is the time to gear up and make it known that first impressions matter.
What is in a cover letter?
Like any letter format, this should be addressed to the recruiting company. It can be just to the company name itself as you may be sending this online. Or there might be a specific person within the receiving company that should be on the header.
Of course, you would want to put your name and contact details on there. Silly you.
Now, the body. Introduce yourself in the most eye-catching way possible without being too cocky. After a sentence or two, inject your intent to be in their company by mentioning the job you’re applying for.
To continue with the body, you should present your competitiveness by highlighting the skills appropriate to the position available. You will need to back this up with your achievements based on the job post. The more engaging the content, the more the recruiters will have an incentive to read your resume.
Before you end the letter with your warmest regards, you may emphasize hearing from them or meeting them. This is to establish that you are serious with your intent and will do what it takes. This ensures that employers/recruiters notice your credentials which can help them consider investing in you.
This is just the gist of it. We’ll dive deeper into the finer points below.
The outline of a cover letter in detail
As explained, we will cover each section of a letter body in detail. This is a surefire outline that will catch the recruiter’s eye and consider you as their new employee.
First (short) paragraph–WHO are you?
This is the part where I mentioned the eye-catching reveal of who you are. You can start it out the gate like this example below.
“As a structural engineer with over 10 years of experience overseeing constructions for some of the biggest companies in San Francisco, I got attracted to ECR Engineering’s posting for [X] position.”
The sooner you position your proposition out there, the better you will lead the rest of the cover letter. It’s a plus if somebody referred you to the recruiting company. You do need to make sure that their name is included. This way, you will have better chances of being shortlisted within the application process.
So the best first paragraph would look like below.
”[Insert referral name] has personally brought my attention to your great company. As a [insert position with years of tenure and achievements], I know that I am the best candidate for [opening posted] on [hiring company].”
You should then end the paragraph with a quick sentence or two to sum it up.
“My [core competencies and results from previous employment] will allow me to add value to your team.”
Second (longer) paragraph-WHY this job/company?
This is where you do some research and not just write the fine points for completion’s sake. Recruiters will know if what you’re saying in the letter will sound insincere and distanced. This is why you will need to get to the heart of what your prospective recruiter is, not just about the particular position.
One valid source of truth for this section would be LinkedIn. LinkedIn mostly has a company’s information down pat - mission and vision included. You can also rely on external articles about company interviews by revered representatives like a CEO. This helps you internalize the company’s intent and reason for existing. It is an advantage that the company’s business voice will also become your voice.
This activity will let you realize why you want the job like you seriously want it. You don’t come to war unprepared, like a knife to a gunfight. So writing this section isn’t as simple as 1, 2, 3 but it can be if you are diligent in your research. You can’t just rely on qualifications alone, however perfect your fit is for the position. The reader needs to be engaged and they need to feel that you’re on the same page as them and aligned to their values.
This also ensures that you don’t waste your time applying for a job you never wanted in the first place.
Third (longest) paragraph-WHAT makes you a good candidate?
After you have engaged the reader/recruiter, this is where the meat and potatoes come in. It is the justification of why you are the best candidate for the position.
Usual cover letters from applicants will list all their achievements just to make the recruiter believe that they’re the one. This is just wrong and a downright lazy composition at that.
This is related to the second section wherein you will need to stitch your way into the position. You will need to create yourself as an applicant who is suited for the recruiting company’s needs. The way to do that is to give relatable examples of your prior work experience that parallels the open position. This shows that you truly understand what the role entails and not just dump qualifications here and there.
Here is an example of a translatable work experience that you can put on the cover letter:
“By designing and orchestrating [x company’s] social media relaunch, I increased user engagement by [X] percent and drove traffic up by [X] page views. Some ideas I had for [your company’s] brand redevelopment include….”
If you noticed that last line, you are directly involving yourself with the hiring company by giving them ideas. And this isn’t a bad way to entice the recruiters about the value add that you can provide for them. This is the true power of research and it pays handsomely should you succeed.
Since research takes a high note in the process of crafting a cover letter, you need to develop a way to isolate what they need based on the listing. Key research plus the knowledge of the position you’re applying for will help you make a sensible document for the recruiter to peruse.
Fourth (shortest) paragraph-SALUTATIONS and follow up details
Before you get to the salutations, you need to find a way to cap off your value proposition. A positive quality that lines up with everything that you wrote for points 2 and 3 should suffice. Something like this statement below:
“Throughout my career, I have taken on diverse challenges and proven my ability to deliver positive results. I would be thrilled to further discuss the possibility of doing the same at [X].”
Did you see what happened at the end there? My point exactly! This may sound like overkill but inviting them for further discussion about the matter maintains the momentum. It is like you have never closed the letter on a low note.
And insert your salutation of choice if you are content with your letter.
Bonus: In case of multiple competencies
If you happen to be a multi-faceted individual with wealth and a wide array of experience, you cannot just craft one cover letter. It is common sense to craft a distinct letter for each job.
Let’s say you have had extensive writing work experience and also worked as an architect years prior. These will need two disparate and probably unrelated cover letters. Regardless, you should still follow all 4 points for a better chance of getting hired.
Applying for a job that you want at a company that you think will benefit you most is not as direct as you would want it to be. You can control the chances of gain rather than dangerously treading unprepared. It’s all about perspective. Knowing what the hiring company needs and what value you can provide them will benefit you greatly.
You have to empathize with the recruiter. You need to understand that they need somebody to fill that position because they have a problem. The sooner you realize this mindset, the better you can craft yourself as their solution. Research, again, is key to creating a winning cover letter.
Congratulations in advance and good luck to your next professional venture as the best candidate in the company you chose.