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Journey to landing your first job Part 2: Writing a cover letter

How to land your first job: reaching out to recruiters

Like I talked about in my previous post, the very first step to landing a job is making your resume. Once you have that, the next step is writing a killer cover letter. Of course, all job applications don’t need a letter but it could make the difference between landing and not landing an interview. 

Cover letters are special since they allow you to share your accomplishments and provide glimpses of your personality with the hiring manager. This is something you can’t do very well with just your resume. Plus, a good letter can give you a competitive edge over others. 

So how do you write an effective, powerful, and winning cover letter? Let’s take a look!

Defining a winning cover letter

The best way to think of a winning cover letter is as a document that tells the hiring manager not just about your qualification, but also about your accomplishments and personality in a captivating way. 

And while many people understand the need of cover letters, they make the mistake of using the same letter for all jobs they apply to by substituting just the name of the manager and the job specifics. As a result, the cover letters become pretty boring for the managers. 

Instead, the trick to having a winning letter is to engage the reader and directly talk about the values and culture of the company. As such, a cover letter must have a few elements (in order), including:

  • A greeting that directly addresses the reader
  • A hook or an interesting idea that’ll convince the reader to read the whole letter
  • Details of your professional accomplishments 
  • A list of your qualities and skills to engage the reader
  • A company tie in, like a quality about the company, that demonstrates you’re the perfect applicant for the job
  • A CTA (call to action) to inform the reader of your expectations
  • A professional valediction with your name and contact details to end the letter

How to write a winning cover letter 

You now know all the important elements a cover letter should have. All that’s left to do is write one, and when you do, make sure you keep these tips in mind:

Learn everything about the role

Before you start working on the letter, make sure you review the company and the position to learn everything you can. Once you have this information, you can easily figure out what you can add to your letter and the tone you should use.   

Determine the relevant skills

Next, make a list of the duties and qualifications needed for the position you’re interested in. Then, make a list of your skills, experiences, and accomplishments and align them with all the things you entered in the list. With the help of this list, you can show the hiring manager that you’re a great fit for the role. 

Once you complete the list, highlight the most relevant experience and accomplishments along with a few relevant skills that you can add to your cover letter.  

Make a template 

Open up a blank document on Microsoft Word or Google Docs and add a header at the top of the page. Make sure this header matches what’s on your resume and include your name, email, and contact number. Make sure the alignment and font match the resume for cohesion. 

After the header, include the date, the name of the recipient and the company’s address.

Write your letter

Start your letter with a greeting along with the hiring manager’s name (or “Dear hiring manager” if you don’t know the name). Then, write an engaging hook that’ll compel the reader to keep reading. And while your first sentence should show your personality, make sure it’s still relevant to the job you’re applying to.  

For instance, you can share something about your past work or an interesting fact that convinced you to apply for the job. Once you have your hook, talk about the position you’re applying for. This will be your first paragraph.

In the second paragraph, talk about your accomplishments and past work to demonstrate why you’re a good fit for the role. Use the list you made earlier, use quantification where you can, and try to tie the accomplishment to a skill required for the job.

The third paragraph should further elaborate on your suitability for the role. Use a bullet list to describe your qualities and skills and give an explanation where needed.

Finally, end your letter by summarizing why you’re a great candidate. Also, make sure you talk about how you can play a part in helping the company meet its goals and how you can benefit the company. Include a CTA so that the hiring manager knows what you expect to happen next. For instance, you can mention that you’d like to have a meeting to discuss things further. This shows that you’d be willing to have an interview.

Sign off 

Once you finish your letter, add a professional sign and your name. You can also add your number and email address to make sure the manager sees it when he’s done reading the letter. 

Proofread & send

Before you hit send, make sure you proofread and edit the letter. In particular, double-check the recipient’s name (specially the spelling) and the title. Read the letter out loud to check for grammatical errors or confusing phrases. It’ll also work in your favor if you ask a friend to read the letter and ensure its precise, clear, and engaging.

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