The Cover letter for a resume is often regarded
as a mere formality and is not given the importance it deserves.
Most job-seekers would prefer to skip it and just send their resume
alone to prospective employers. Others would invariably send an
announcement cover letter stating the obvious i.e " Please
find enclosed my resume…". Such cover letters would
definitely be a waste. Is a cover letter then, really necessary?
A cover letter with the resume is essential to improve
your chance of selection
If you are sending your resume to an employer, you should always
ensure that a cover letter goes along with it. Why is this cover
letter so important?
The cover letter is the first thing that the recruiter reads
when short-listing resumes. It is much shorter than a resume and,
if well written in content and presentation, could grab the attention
of the person sifting through the possibly large volumes of resumes
that have arrived for a particular position. This is particularly
so in the case of advertised vacancies where as many as 50 to
100 resumes could arrive for the position every day. With these
volumes, you can expect ruthlessness in the screening process.
In fact, the first level of screening would probably be done by
a clerk who may not even be aware of the details of the advertised
position and may be working on a preliminary checklist provided
to him. Over 50% resumes may be removed at this stage and may
not even reach the next level in the screening process. A good
cover letter would definitely help at this stage in at least sounding
different and standing out from the crowd. It could improve your
chance of being selected for an interview!
What then, should your cover letter contain?
Your cover letter should highlight the value you offer
to meet the employer needs
The cover letter is an opportunity for you to respond to the needs
of the prospective employer. You need to go beyond your resume
and its details of your past experience. And highlight how you
can help your new organisation in achieving its goals. How your
skills and experience together can meet the expectations that
accompany the new job profile. You can claim the value that you
offer to the organisation in your cover letter. The detailed evidence
to back up your claims will be provided by your resume.
Remember that your cover letter is meant to motivate the organisation
to take some action in your favour i.e. either short-list you
as a probable interviewee and inform you about the interview date,
or at least accept your call when you telephone to follow up on
your resume. This can only happen if your cover letter contains
a clear reason/benefit why the organisation should hire you, similar
to highlighting the Unique Selling Proposition in an advertisement
for a consumer brand.
Try and customise your cover letters for different employers
A common practice is to send the same cover letter for different
employers through a mass mail exercise, where just the employer
name is changed. This may be so because it is easier and quicker
to finalise one cover letter whereas customised cover letters
for different employers would require a lot more effort. You may
even reduce the number of companies you send your resume to if
you need to customise each cover letter. Here, there is a definite
trade-off between customisation and volumes.
In the case of mass mailing a generic cover letter, you have
the definite advantage of sending your resume to a higher number
of prospective employers which increases your probability of getting
some job. However on the down side your cover letter and resume
may not stand out from the competition because you have had to
keep the content general in order to satisfy different organisations.
When you prepare different cover letters for different employers,
you will need to think along the following lines to customise
the letter i.e. you need to think about the organisation and the
industry its in, its customers and clients, your job profile if
you were to get recruited by them, and how your strengths, abilities,
traits could help contribute significantly to the organisation
. Just highlighting your basic skills could help you get short-listed,
but you need to stand out above the clutter. You also need to
differentiate yourself vis a vis your competition and let that
come through in the letter. That would be the difference a customised
cover letter would make. There will be parts of the letter that
you could use a as standard section in all your letters and that,
to some extent, would save you time and effort. It is advisable
to change the rest of the letter to suit the specific needs of
each of your prospective employers. This should give the employer
a clear reason why they will be better off after recruiting you!
The cover letter should be short with a conversational
style instead of a stiff tone
How long should the cover letter be? What should be the tone and
style of language used?
The answer to the first question is that the cover letter should
be short as the reader may only give it a quick skim through given
the pile of resumes that he may have to go through.
It should have not more than 2-3 paragraphs of 5-7 lines each.
The sentences should not be too long nor should they be in point
form like in a checklist. You can highlight a certain sentence
by using italics or bold whichever you prefer.
Regarding the second question of the tone and style of language
used in the letter, it is preferable to use a conversational and
easy flowing friendly tone, instead of a formal and stiff business
like approach to the letter. Do not use ornate and long winded
words or thoughts. Keep your claims specific and not vague. Avoid
over-loading your letter with too many adjectives.
A common part of certain resumes and cover letters is a host
of adjectives like-
"committed, dedicated, motivated individual with excellent
communication skills, efficient, reliable with outstanding interpersonal
skills, keen mind with excellent problem-solving and analytical
Phew! Please avoid such long cliched self praise in your cover
letter. This example may be an exaggeration, but the point that
needs to be made is this- stick to a few credible claims with
a brief substantiation. A host of adjectives such as the ones
above cannot make your resume stand out, but instead might receive
a response such as "Oh no! Not one of those again!".
Now that is definitely not what you wanted!
Avoid servile language like- " I humbly submit my resume
to your esteemed organisation….."
You need to communicate through your cover letter, a positive
personality so that you can instill confidence in the prospective
employer regarding recruiting you for the position. A servile,
beseeching tone like the one mentioned will only put off the employer
regarding your leadership abilities.
Try not to use standard opening lines in your cover letter
Try and avoid the usual standard opening line "Please find
my resume enclosed…" . Though this definitely gets
to the point, it will not really catch the employer's attention
or be able to stand out of the clutter. For opening lines, you
could consider any of the following:
If you are applying to an organisation through someone's recommendation,
it could help if you introduced that person's name right at the
beginning. For example, "Mr. ABC informed me that you were
looking for a brand manager for the detergents division. I think
I could be a suitable candidate for this position given my experience
The objective of the job
You could start the letter by highlighting how you can help in
achieving the objectives of the job in question i.e. " As
a brand manager, I think I can help your organisation by ……..".
Then go on to describe certain benefits the organisation will
receive if you are recruited for this position.
Referring to the advertised position
This could also fall into the standard category if not done properly.
Instead of mentioning the usual " With reference to your
advertisement for the position of …….", you can
try an alternative approach which at least is less cliched -"
You may find my experience suitable for the position of ……..,
according to what was mentioned in your advertisement. "
Whatever approach to the opening lines you find suitable, the
important thing to remember is that you need to GET TO THE POINT
Address the letter to a specific person
There is a tendency to address the cover letter to a designation
such as Human Resources Manager or Personnel Manager etc. Make
an effort and find out the name of the person in the organisation
in that position and address the letter to him/her. And remember
do not get mixed up with gender. If you were to erroneously write
a Mr. with a name when it should have been Mrs., you could lose
whatever benefit you intended to get by writing the name! Be careful
to find out and do not get gender wrong! A correct name would
add to the positive spin-offs you could get by customising your
Stick to readable font style and size
For your cover letters, you could use Arial or Times Roman font
styles with a point size of 11-12.
The situation given below gives an example of what a good cover
letter could be like.
Ranjit is applying for the position of a product executive in
a multi-national marketing corporation. He is responding to an
advertisement that appeared in the national daily newspaper. He
has about 4 years experience as a sales representative but no
formal training in the field of marketing. He knows that his competition
will be from management graduates who will have the advantage
of MBA included in their resume. He knows that he has to shift
the focus away from the areas where he is weak i.e. his lack of
theoretical knowledge with no MBA degree. Instead he has to focus
on areas where he is strong, to make up for this gap. This is
where he can differentiate himself vis-à-vis his competition.
A sample of a good cover letter in a situation like this is given
SAMPLE COVER LETTER
No. 7, M.G. Road,
Mr. A. Lal
ABC corporation Ltd.
123, Connaught circus
Re: Product Executive Position
As a sales representative with 4 years experience, I think I
can contribute effectively to your organisation as a product executive.
I have worked closely with dealers trying to sell-in and promote
my existing company's range of food products. I have developed
good relations with 400 dealers in my territory which is West
Delhi, and have been able to assess the tremendous sales potential
of this area. Analysing market trends, anticipating competitor
behaviour, carrying out regional sales promotion activities are
some of the skills that I have acquired during my sales representative
Where your brand XYZ is concerned, I have found through working
in my market that brand awareness is high. However, in-home usage
could be increased through organising regional activities that
I may not have attended a formal MBA programme, however I have
acquired a lot of practical knowledge by working in the field.
Regarding theoretical knowledge, I do read extensively and keep
myself informed on the latest developments in marketing.
My detailed resume is enclosed. I hope I can get the opportunity
to meet you during the interview.