Monday, July 25, 2011

WTF Is A Cover Letter?

Good question. WTF is a Cover Letter? What does it even mean?

Well, in the real working world - people want Cover Letters. They want them well written. And they want them now.

What Is A Cover Letter?

O.k, I want you to take everything you've ever heard/learned about cover letters and flush it out of your head. They aren't hard, they shouldn't be time consuming and hell they should even be fun. Think of it as a fun opportunity to network if nothing else.

It's fair enough people expecting you to attach cover letters for all your job applications, but not having a good idea of what a cover letter actually entails may put a spanner in the works.

A cover letter is simply a letter that explains why you are emailing or writing to somebody. Otherwise, you're just sending out C.Vs randomly in the hope that Duncan Donut may be looking to hire a new employee. So, if your writing to ask if somebody has work for the summer - tell them that!

IntroDUCKTION (funny right?)

Let's say your sending a covering letter to McDonalds for example, it might start a little something like this;

"Dear Sir/Madam" - yes, being polite actually helps.

"I am writing to enquire as to whether there is the possibility of any temporary work during the summer this year. Currently, I am a 2nd year student at the University of X in XTown, Ohio and will be free for full-time work if necessary the entire summer period - July to late Sept."

This is of course, if you're shooting in the dark and have no idea if they are looking to take on Summer staff. Even if they aren't, it shows initiative and you never know, you might get something back from this a few months down the line when you're at your lowest living off spaghetti hoops and cheerios.

What To Put In Your Cover Letter

O.key dokey then.

1) The introduction - (anything based on what is written above has always worked for me and I generally receive a response from 90% of my emails). Remember to introduce yourself however, don't be rude - why would somebody spend their precious free time reading an application from somebody who isn't even prepared to introduce themselves?

2) Match your cover letter to the job/job description - the MOST IMPORTANT part to any cover letter is tailoring it to the job position. If there is a job description with a list of requirements, PERFECT. If you can explain to an employer that you are exactly what they are specifically requesting - job done.

For example: "You state in the job description that you require an applicant who is:

Hard working and very motivated. “Having worked two jobs throughout most of my higher education, I have had to work hard consistently to maintain a healthy work/life balance and self motivate myself along the way.”

A minimum of 15 hours per week. “I'll address this issue right now and tell you I am prepared to work a minimum of 25 hours per week if required, and will happily work a full working week if required.”(Obviously don't committ to something you can't back up, but employers are often looking for those who can take on overtime when required as it is a massive help to have flexible workers).

A strong familiarity with Skill X. I am more than comfortable using Skill X, as is evident through my previous work experience. (Expand on this using a few lines with specific examples).

Again I can't stress enough how important it is to make it evident that you meet all the employers requirements.

3) A conclusion (Yeah, not much to it after all huh?)

Again, manners are essential. It's always nice to finish your letter with a little sign off. Write what comes most naturally to you, but remember to draw the line between formal and casual speech - it's a very fine line!

For example, I like to finish with something like this;

"Thanks very much for taking the time to consider my application.
(Saying thank-you goes a long way. People don't want to hire a douche with no manners, especially not in any service based industry).

Hoping to find you well,


*Your name*"

See? Nice and simple.

If you feel confident enough to drop in a bit about the company – i.e show off with some knowledge of what they do, knowledge of the trade/industry – feel free, it can only help!

Thanks for reading!

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