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
  • Penn Foster Schools

    Advance your career with our affordable, self-paced, career-focused distance education programs.

    Programs

    • Bookkeeping
    • Veterinary Assistant
    • HVACR Technician
    • More...
    Location:
    Scranton: , Scranton PA 18515
    Penn Foster Schools Request Info »
  • Stratford Career Institute

    Earn Your Diploma from Home!

    Programs

    • Drug & Alcohol Treatment Specialist
    • Funeral Service Education
    • French as a Second Language
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Stratford Career Institute Request Info »
  • UT - Arlington

    About The University of Texas at Arlington

    Programs

    • M.Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction - Mathematics Education
    • Master of Science in Nursing - Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
    • M.Ed. In Curriculum and Instruction - Science Education
    • More...
    Location:
    Arlington: , Arlington TX 76019
    UT - Arlington Request Info »
  • New England College - Online

    Work toward your graduate degree with New England College Online.

    Programs

    • Master of Science in Accounting - Forensic Accounting
    • MS in Management/Project Management
    • Master of Science in Accounting
    • More...
    Location:
    Henniker: 98 Bridge St,, Henniker NH 03242
    New England College - Online Request Info »
  • University of North Carolina - Wilmington

    About University of North Carolina Wilmington

     

    To meet today’s high demand for nursing professionals UNCW is offering an accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing program completely online.

    Programs

    • MSN Nurse Educator
    • RN to BSN

    Location: Online

    University of North Carolina - Wilmington Request Info »
  • Baylor University

    About Baylor University

    Baylor is nationally-ranked as a research and academic institution by both U.S. News & World Report and Kiplinger’s.

    Programs

    • Master of Business Administration
    Location:
    Waco: , Waco TX 76798
    Baylor University Request Info »
  • Allied Real Estate Schools

    As home sales increase, you can be ready to launch a new career. Allied’s real estate programs provide the perfect way to start a professional career - one with unlimited opportunity! Put yourself at the forefront of the real estate field as a salesperson, broker or appraiser.

    Programs

    • California Real Estate License
    • Virginia Real Estate License
    • Nevada Real Estate License
    • More...
    Location:
    Laguna Hills: 22952 Alcalde Drive, Laguna Hills CA 92653
    Allied Real Estate Schools Request Info »
  • University of North Florida

    The University of North Florida is a nationally ranked university that offers a well-rounded education to students determined to make their mark and change the lives of others as well as their own.

    Programs

    • Doctor of Nursing Practice
    • RN to BSN

    Location: Online

    University of North Florida Request Info »
  • University of the Rockies

    Join the community of thought leaders at University of the Rockies. Pursue your graduate degree from the University’s School of Professional Psychology or School of Organizational Leadership.

    Programs

    • MA in Public Sociology
    • Doctor of Psychology, Mediation & Conflict Resolution
    • Doctor of Philosophy, Organizational Development and Leadership
    • More...

    Location: Online

    University of the Rockies Request Info »
  • University of Southern California

    One of the world's leading private research institutions, the University of Southern California (USC) was founded in 1880.

    Programs

    • Online Master of Management in Library and Information Science - Urban Public Librarianship
    • Online Master of Management in Library and Information Science - Academic Librarianship
    • Master of Public Administration
    • More...
    Location:
    Los Angeles: , Los Angeles CA
    University of Southern California 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.