Cover Letter Knowledge


The CV is in good shape and is about to go 'live.' So, does it really matter that you didn't pay attention to language and punctuation in your cover letter?

Correct! Wrong!

Is it really necessary to use proper grammar and punctuation?

It has the potential to be a deal breaker. Not so much in your abilities to do the job you're applying for, but in your hopes of even obtaining an interview. It's just not going to happen. In a highly competitive market, even the smallest distraction can cause a reader to abandon your application and move on to the next. So why should you offer the individual reading your letter any cause to do so? It's illogical. Especially since this is one area where you have complete control and can take your time to perfect.

How do you control it? You have a blank canvas in front of you, and you have complete control over what goes on it. You have complete control over the entire page and everything on it. So take the time to make sure it's intelligible, coherent, and well-presented. Asking relatives or friends for assistance may be necessary, and if so, do so. And, as prejudiced as it may seem, it may also imply that you should consider hiring an expert to assist you in perfecting it. Every one of us has flaws, but it is how we respond to those flaws that can make or break us.

Either way, if you do feel that you need help (and you wouldn't be alone, if that is the case) then regardless of who you approach to help, don't let this be the part of the process that lets you down. Be proactive and address it.

In any case, if you believe you require assistance (and you are not alone in this), don't allow this be the portion of the process that fails you. Take the initiative and deal with it.

Which is more essential, the cover letter or the resume?

Correct! Wrong!

Well, it's primarily the CV, although both are equally significant.

So neither is more powerful than the other?

The CV, on the other hand, is the key player, and you should not lose sight of this. It's what sells you and helps you stand out from the crowd. At the same time, the best cover letters and CVs complement each other. A well-written cover letter should always accompany a well-written CV. Consider them a tag-team, working together to achieve a common goal. You want the reader to be able to move from one document to the next without interruption. Poor examples of these papers operating together tend to cause confusion. The last thing you want is for the reader to scratch his head, attempting to make sense of what's in front of him, or to have to make leaps of logic across pages. If this occurs, he or she will most likely simply move on to the next one.

Is it necessary for them to be sent together?

It is not a rule in and of itself, although it is widely assumed. And now that you have this information, it would be a costly mistake to dismiss it and send one without the other. When the cover letter and CV work together, they are most effective. Consider them a 'power pair,' providing your application with twice the firepower. They must still be outstanding documents in their own right, but when viewed in isolation, they are a slightly diluted version of what they could and should be.

Should you provide much information about the employer and their company in your cover letter?

Correct! Wrong!

Doing your research on the firm you're applying to is usually a good idea, especially if they have specific criteria for what they're looking for in candidates for specific jobs. Similarly, it is almost assumed that candidates will have done some research about the company in question before attending an interview. If you do not do this, it may work against you.

At the same time, you are not need to go to such lengths in your cover letter. Yes, many people do, and some "advisers" even suggest it.

Furthermore, some companies particularly invite candidates to remark on why they wish to work for them.

At the same time, does it actually help?

No, not always. For example, if you are the HR director for a firm, you already know everything about it; you know what it does, what it sells, where its markets are, and so on. As a result, you don't really need someone to tell you all of this in a cover letter. And they do. Not only that, but many go overboard, to the point that they forget that the main aim of the cover letter is to sell themselves, not to document and analyze the history of a specific organization.

What if they expressly ask you to write about why you want to apply?

In such instances, it is necessary to conduct some study. With today's resources at your disposal, there aren't many excuses for not doing your homework. Accept the internet - or at least parts of it - and research your goals. Know thy (future) boss! They'll be pleased by your knowledge, and if it's something obscure but fascinating, even better... You'll never know for sure, but at this point, odds are they'll stand up and cheer your message, so well done!

How much should I write about situations like this?

There is no fixed quantity you should aim for; just enough to demonstrate that you know who they are, what they do, and why you want to work for them. If you find yourself mentioning their home addresses and license plates, grasp for the tippex and take a step back. However, don't underplay it, as this will come across as generic and disinterested. That's a negative thing.

Should you try to address your letter to a specific person or just use the generic Sir/Madam salutation?

Correct! Wrong!

What difference does it make who I address myself to?

Mostly because it demonstrates that you were paying attention to the advertisement. The majority of the basic text in job advertisements is usually pretty generic and easy to grasp. So simple that we sometimes overlook the most basic instructions. Take care not to do this. Read it and then reread it multiple times. As you recite the directions aloud in front of your computer screen, you may feel like a cherished clown, but it's frequently time well spent. Just keep the on-screen camera turned off.

Shouldn't I address them as Dear Sirs' even though I know their names?

No. Addressing someone by name may feel more informal, but they've provided you their contact information for a reason. They presumably prefer being addressed by name rather than the more generic 'Dear Sirs.'

Should you go into detail about the job you're looking for?

Correct! Wrong!

What should I say about this position?

The fact that you are applying for the job implies that you desire the job - this is self-evident. Furthermore, everyone else who has applied for the position must also want it. So you're all in the same boat in that way. Now, though, is your chance to separate yourself from the competition and make your point with greater conviction. You don't have the space to go into detail about what the job entails, so keep it brief and to the point. Tell them what appeals to you most about the challenge of the position, and why you believe you're an excellent fit.

Which of the following should be included in a well-written cover letter?

Correct! Wrong!

Consider your cover letter to be a metaphorical, face-to-face handshake. It's you saying hello; this is who I am and what I do. I really want to work with you based on what you've accomplished, and if that happens, here is what I can do for you.' The key, however, is knowing when to let go of the other guy's hand. Don't let it go on for too long. Not too quickly, lest you imply the guy is contagious, and not too long, lest the two of you reach that point of no return; where it's really more painful to be the one to draw your hand away first. It's all about balance, just like everything else in life. Keep things short, but more essential, keep them informative. Your goal is to find a happy medium. The key goal is to pique their interest in you - in who you are and what you have to give. This should be provided via a well-balanced and well-written cover letter and CV.

The goal of the cover letter is to catch and hold the reader's attention. And, rather than showing up at the employer's door and punching him in the face, you're depending on the power of your words to do this. Remember that the employer has no duty to offer you the job; you must earn it. And, no matter how vehemently you wave your fists at the sky, the reality, as far as the employer is concerned, is that nothing you have done in your life, thus far, truly matters; at least, not yet. Nobody is interested in you or what you've done at this stage.It is your job to pique their interest with a carefully designed and perfectly timed cover letter.

It's a cover letter, and you want to make a good impression on your possible new employers. Is it time to get out the thesaurus and impress them with big words?

Correct! Wrong!

What is the significance of my word choice?

Your choice of words, in any medium, will always play a critical role in the ultimate success of your efforts. Consider this: whether it's the written word on a page or the spoken word in a discussion, our choice of words in our daily lives is critical to getting things done. This certainly varies in importance from the less trivial to the more serious; but, like it or not, it is frequently the deciding element in whether or not we agree with something. And, when you're desperate to impress a potential employer, it's critical that your choice of words, tone, and context be as close to perfect as possible.

So, what terminology should I use?

Preferably, words you are already familiar with. You want to aim higher than your regular vocabulary, but not so high that you use words that don't belong in your argument. If you have any uncertainties about a word's meaning, leave it out. Simply remove yourself from the temptation. It can and will suffocate any natural flow in your work and, more than likely, end your chances of advancement.

The thesaurus is a fine tool for writers and every writer should have one. No-one wants their writing to remain bland and formulaic; you want some colour and variety in your words. Just don't overplay it or you'll come unstuck. Balance is the key.