Cover Letters demystified

There is a lot of material out there around how to build a good Cover Letter and a fabulous Biography. I will only give you a little outline that I think will be just fine when applying for a job. A lot of my clients panic when they have to write a Cover Letter. People seem to think that they need to be highly talented to write a Cover Letter, but we are not applying for a Nobel Prize here, it’s a lot simpler than that!

A Cover Letter is when you get a little more personal and when you have the opportunity to connect with your audience. People are not necessarily interested in having another version of your resume in a different format, they want to know what is not in your resume. They want to know your background, your career goals, your “parcours”, the reasons behind your career choices and they want to be reminded of your main skills, technical skills, language skills and in some cases, your software skills (depending on the job you are applying for).

You don’t need to explain much about your education. You can just use a few lines to summarise your educational background. You should mention that at the end of the letter.

In my Cover Letter, I use this:

“I have recently completed my Certificate in Human Resources Management at UC Berkeley (2016). I hold a Master in Humanitarian Action from the University of Geneva (2008), and a BA in International Relations from the University Centre of Brasilia (2005)”.

This is just a quick summary without much details, GPAs, scores or campus volunteer work. We don’t need to focus too much on the education, unless we are applying for a University degree. An employer wants to know about your professional background and the reason(s) why you are applying for a given role.

In this sense, I usually start Cover Letters with something along these lines:

“I would very much appreciate the chance of working as a (name of the role) for (name of the company).”

Once you have said that, you can explain why you are a good candidate for the job, what you have been doing lately and what you want to do in the near future. You also have to explain how this role will enable you to achieve your career goals.

You can also use this opportunity to explain any career breaks, gaps or international experience. You can verse about blogs or networking groups you participate in. I would personally avoid talking about hobbies and family related matters. You can also explain that you have a valid work visa (you are not required to explain that until you are offered a job) and you can explain what are your availabilities in terms of travels and working hours.

A Cover Letter should normally be pasted onto the email that you will send to the recruiter. Your resume should be attached to the same email. You have to end the letter by saying that you are available to discuss further details of your professional background and don’t forget to add your contact details.

I don’t recommend sending out a blank email to any recruiter. Always include a Cover Letter so that he/she will have a good idea of who you are and will be interested in opening your attached resume.

Lastly, but not least, make sure you adapt your Cover Letter to the job you are applying for. Always read it carefully before sending it out because sometimes people tend to use the same Cover Letter for every job they apply for and end up making unforgivable mistakes around job titles and company names.


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