dcsimg
You are here:

Three Topics to Address in the Cover Letter

Despite its inconsistent use by recruiters, the cover letter remains an important component of the application process. While some firms have completely stopped using cover letters for recruiting, other organizations swear by it. At its worst, the cover letter is an unorganized, generic letter that restates or summarizes what is already on the resume. At its best, however, the cover letter propels a mediocre candidate from the "no" pile to the "must interview" pile. Unfortunately, most cover letters lack both direction and purpose. There are three critical topics that should be addressed on every cover letter: Why are you applying? What value do you bring to the organization? And finally, an explanation for any glaring weakness of your candidacy.

Why are you applying?
The first paragraph of a cover letter answers the question of why you are applying for a specific position at an organization. The recruiter or hiring manager wants to know why you are writing and you need to catch their attention early and not just offer some generic sentence such as, "My name is Igor Khayet and I am a marketing major at Georgetown University applying for a full-time position as a brand manager at Procter & Gamble." This is a boring sentence that will be replicated by hundreds of other applicants. In your research, did you learn something unique about the company? Is there something unique about you or your experience that will make you stand out? Did you attend a presentation from the company or know someone that already works there? Make this paragraph as detailed as you can to show that you have spent time researching the firm and the position and not just changed the name of the company and clicked "send."

What value will you bring to the organization?
Once you have explained why you are writing and impressed the recruiter about your knowledge of the firm, you need to convince them that you can offer value to the organization. To understand what is valuable you have to know the organization and what the job entails. Read the job posting carefully and write down the 3 or 4 key phrases or words that are repeated. From a high level perspective, what are the major responsibilities of the role? Now, match your experience, education, and skills to fit that role. Remember that value is relative and not absolute; it's not about why you are a great fit for the job, but why you are a great fit compared with other candidates.

Are there any glaring weaknesses in your candidacy?
Cover Letters can also be used to discuss critical weaknesses that will be immediately apparent to the interviewer, but this should be used on a case-by-case basis. Example: A college student with no finance experience applying for an investment banking job. Example: A mid career computer programmer with a three year gap in work experience. In both of these cases, the recruiter will see red flags and usually throw the resume out without considering an interview. However, the candidate has the opportunity to preempt this action and directly address the weakness. It may sound something like this:

"You may be wondering why someone who studied history is interested in Investment Banking. Despite having no formal experience working at a financial firm, I have been personally investing money for the past 4 years, and earned a 20% return on my investment."

--
Igor Khayet is the President and Founder of My Resume Shop, a career services company offering assistance with resumes, cover letters, and interview preparation. He is a former Admissions Interviewer for the Yale School of Management and a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Search Schools

      
Matching School Ads
  • Ashford University

    You've found Ashford University, where school comes to you. Earn your bachelor's or master's degree online.

    Programs

    • AA/Early Childhood Education
    • BA/Early Childhood Education Administration
    • BA/Education Studies
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Ashford University Request Info »
  • Full Sail University - Online

    Push Your Creativity To The Next Level

    Programs

    • Graphic Design, Bachelor of Science (Online)
    • Internet Marketing, Master of Science (Online)
    • Music Production, Bachelors of Science (Online)
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Full Sail University - Online Request Info »
  • Colorado Technical University Online

    A degree from CTU connects you to what matters most: powerful professional network, real-world professional faculty and innovative technology. Once you earn your degree you hit the ground running.

    Programs

    • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN completion)
    • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
    • Master of Science in Information Technology - Network Management
    • More...
    Location:
    Colorado Springs: 4435 North Chestnut Street, Colorado Springs CO 80907
    Colorado Technical University Online Request Info »
  • Regent University

    Regent University prepares students with the knowledge to excel and the faith to live with purpose.

    Programs

    • Master of Arts in Law - Non-Profit Management
    • Bachelor of Arts in English - Self-Designed
    • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Regent University Request Info »
  • Rutgers University

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national public research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher learning.

    Programs

    • Online Master of Social Work
    • Online Master of Business Administration
    • Online Master of Information
    • More...
    Location:
    New Brunswick: 57 U.S. 1,, New Brunswick NJ 08901
    Rutgers University Request Info »
  • Platt College

    Turn your talents into a career at nationally recognized and accredited Platt College.

    Programs

    • Veterinary Technology Alternate Route - Certificate
    • Respiratory Therapy
    • Veterinary Technology - Associates
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Platt College Request Info »
  • Capella University

    An accredited online university, Capella University offers bachelor’s, master’s/MBA, doctoral, and certificate programs designed to take you to the forefront of your profession.

    Programs

    • MSN - RN-to-MSN Care Coordination (CCNE-accredited)
    • BS - Human Resource Management (ACBSP-accredited)
    • MS - Addiction Studies
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Capella University Request Info »
  • Concordia College - New York

    Concordia College-New York M.S. Degree Programs Online

    Concordia College-New York offers accredited, innovative graduate degrees online to help you advance your career and become a transformative leader.

    Programs

    • M.S. in Digital Marketing
    • M.A. in Digital Media
    Location:
    Bronxville: 171 White Plains Road,, Bronxville NY 10708
    Concordia College - New York Request Info »
  • Simmons College School of Social Work

    SocialWork@Simmons is an innovative, online Master of Social Work program offered through the Simmons School of SocialWork, the nation’s oldest school of social work. Complete your MSW in as little as 15 months with this CSWE-accredited program. No GRE required.

    Programs

    • Master of Social Work
    Location:
    Boston: 300 The Fenway, Boston MA 02115
    Simmons College School of Social Work Request Info »
  • Villanova University

    Programs

    • Online Master of Laws in Taxation
    • Online Master of Science in Analytics
    • Online Master of Business Administration
    • More...
    Location:
    Villanova: 800 E Lancaster Ave, , Villanova PA 19085
    Villanova University Request Info »
  • Matching School Ads

    Quick School Search

    College & Career Search Tools

    • Careers: Unsure about your career path? Study profiles of hundreds of professions.

    • Interviews: Professors and deans sit down with our team to give you unique insights on college life.

    • Military Education: Find only Military friendly online schools and campuses.

    • Student Reviews: Know before you go. Read student reviews on over 2000 accredited colleges. Write your own experience.