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
  • University of Southern California - DSW

    The University of Southern California Doctor of Social Work (DSW) online program is designed for experienced practitioners to harness innovative solutions to solve real-world problems.

    Unlike a PhD in social work, which prepares scholars for careers in research and the professoriate, the DSW@USC is an online advanced practice degree program for working professionals who want to have a greater impact in their practice.

    Programs

    • Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
    Location:
    Los Angeles: 669 W 34th St, Los Angeles CA 90089
    University of Southern California - DSW Request Info »
  • Wake Forest University - Online

    Business Analytics opportunities are numerous as major organizations adopt data-driven, technology-focused strategies across nearly every industry.

    Programs

    • Masters in Business Analytics

    Location: Online

    Wake Forest University - Online Request Info »
  • George Mason University

    Located in Fairfax, Virginia, George Mason University is the largest public research university in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    Programs

    • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis
    • Master of Business Administration: Business Analytics Specialization
    • Master of Education in Special Education, specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder
    • More...

    Location: Online

    George Mason  University Request Info »
  • Washington State University

    Get your career started with training from Washington State University.

    Programs

    • Executive MBA
    • MBA
    Location:
    Pullman: , Pullman WA
    Washington State University Request Info »
  • Pepperdine University - Marriage and Family Therapy

    Pepperdine University offers its esteemed marriage and family therapy (MFT) master’s program online so students across the country can earn a Pepperdine graduate education without attending classes on campus. 

     

    Programs

    • Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy
    Location:
    Malibu: , Malibu CA 90263
    Pepperdine University - Marriage and Family Therapy Request Info »
  • Ultimate Medical Academy Online

    Ultimate Medical Academy is a nonprofit healthcare career school—and students are at the heart of everything we do. That’s why we offer exclusive student services through your career training and beyond, beginning from the time you enroll online or at our campus in Clearwater, FL. We’ll also guide you toward the right program for your goals, and help you understand the affordability of your career training. So let us know you’re interested, and we’ll discuss how UMA can help you succeed.

     

    Gainful employment information can be found at UltimateMedical.edu/gainful-employment and includes information on tuition, loan debt, completion, placement, and occupations.

    Programs

    • A.S. - Healthcare Information Technology
    • Diploma - Medical Administrative Assistant
    • A.S.- Health Sciences (Pharmacy Technician)
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Ultimate Medical Academy Online Request Info »
  • University of Maryland at College Park

    Study online with University of Maryland at College Park.

    Programs

    • MBA - Information Systems & Business Analytics
    • MBA - General
    • MBA - Marketing
    • More...
    Location:
    College Park: , College Park MD 20742
    University of Maryland at College Park Request Info »
  • Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus

    At Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus, we turn belief into action. When you dig deeper than theory and classroom learning, you produce capable, forward-thinking leaders ready to solve global problems. You will learn by doing, whether through hands-on projects, research, internships or competitions.

    Programs

    • Technology Management
    • Cyber Security-Online Grad certificate
    • Professional Master of Technology Curriculum (Online) Grad
    Location:
    Salina: 2310 Centennial Rd, Salina KS 67401
    Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus 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

    Location: Online

    Platt College Request Info »
  • Argosy University, Online Programs

    Welcome to Argosy University

    Argosy University offers doctoral, master's, and bachelor's degree programs to students through its eight colleges:  College of Behavioral Sciences, Graduate School of Business and Management, College of Education,  College of Health Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Creative Arts and Design, College of Clinical Psychology and Western State College of Law at Argosy University as well as certificate programs in many areas.

    Programs

    • Curriculum and Instruction (EdD)
    • Sport-Exercise Psychology (MA)
    • Business Administration (AS)
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Argosy University, Online Programs 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.