By Dr Dipo Awojide
This article previously appeared at The Guardian Nigeria, July 14, 2019.
In the process of looking for a job, besides having a well-crafted CV, it is very important to have a brilliant cover letter which explains (in a narrative format) why you are a good fit for the role you are applying for. In other words, getting the Cover Letter right is as important as getting the CV right. As the saying goes, behind every great CV is a fantastic Cover Letter. So, your job applications should always include a Cover Letter unless the job advert says otherwise.
A Cover Letter is an essential part of the job application process and it can be used to demonstrate to recruiters and head-hunters why you will be excellent at the job you are applying for or why you will be a great addition to the team or organisation. It is important to note that Cover Letters for early-career professionals with less than 5 years post-graduation experience should not exceed one A4 page. It should be persuasive and detailed, but very concise.
Your Cover Letter should not be a repetition of your CV. It should contain specific details about your experience, attribute, skills, qualifications and awards which stands you out and makes you a solid and perfect candidate for the job you are applying for. In other words, your Cover Letter is an opportunity to sell yourself even further and can be used to help market your personal brand.
The following tips will help you in your quest for crafting a winning cover letter.
Do not repeat your resume/CV
The purpose of the cover letter is to highlight your skills, experience, qualifications and attributes and should not be a repetition of your CV. Where you have used some bullet points to explain your key achievements on your CV, you can translate these key achievements into sentences on your cover letter. These sentences should explain in a much more detail, what was presented on your CV.
Tailor to the advertising organisation
Just like you would on your CV, your cover letter should also be written in such a way that you are responding directly to the advertised role you are applying for and of course tailored to the organisation you want to join.
You do not want to have spelling or punctuation errors on your Cover Letter, so endeavour to use a spell-checker after writing your letter.
Use Calibri or Times New Roman
These are the most appealing and professional fonts. It is better to stick to what already works.
Cut the formality
There is no need for excessive greeting or being patronising. Just go straight to the point.
Sell your USPs
Once again, make sure you highlight your unique selling points on your cover letter. Some of these may already have been included in your CV but just needs to be further emphasised and highlighted in your cover letter.
Include as many details as possible but not too much information. Try to write persuasively and in a concise manner.
Tell a convincing story
You need to explain why you are suitable for the role you are applying for, what attracted you to the company, and what skills and expertise you are bringing on board.
Use outstanding examples
Highlight relevant and specific examples from your prior experience and demonstrate how these examples made a difference in the teams or companies you worked for.
It is advisable to use the same keywords and perhaps similar phrases used on the job description and person specification in your cover letter.
In summary, it is important to always send a cover letter alongside your CV. A cover letter is an opportunity to demonstrate interest, highlight your key skills, your suitability and your reason for applying for a job or wanting to join an organisation.