With the increasing popularity of online job applications, many freshers can get away with merely uploading their background details without worrying about writing a cover letter. Make no mistake, though – a cover letter is crucial!

Many companies deliberately keep it as an ‘optional’ step to see which candidates make an effort to boost their chances of getting an interview call. And those who take the trouble of writing and uploading one definitely get an edge over the others.

So the next time you’re applying to a job, open up a new Word doc and put your thinking cap on to write a winning cover letter. The following dos and don’ts will help you out if you haven’t written a cover letter before and are looking for reliable advice on how to ace it.

Dos

1) Include a formal salutation

A cover letter is an actual letter, not an essay, so format it accordingly. Add the company’s address on the top left-hand corner and include a respectful salutation to the recipient. While ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ is perfectly acceptable, you should ideally address the hiring manager by name.

Do some research online to see who it is – LinkedIn is an excellent place to get the names of employers.

2) Write a short, catchy intro

The first few lines are what will get the reader hooked, so make them count. Include specific descriptive words that summarise your abilities and qualifications, and reiterate your interest in this role.

It is essential that you dive straight into what makes you a suitable applicant rather than wasting time and space on generic openings like “I’m writing this letter to apply for the role of Marketing Executive.”

3) Show that you’ve done your homework

Your cover letter should ultimately be about the company and why you are an excellent fit for them. Research them online and connect your skills and accomplishments with things that they believe in really.

For instance, if the company lists ‘proactive leadership’ as one of its mottoes, you could mention it and describe an incident where you demonstrated proactive leadership – for instance, by stepping in and volunteering to direct the college play when the original director fell sick.

4) Proofread your cover letter

Do you know what can ruin an otherwise perfect cover letter? Spelling mistakes and missing apostrophes. Thoroughly examine your cover letter for any grammatical errors and get a parent, college teacher, or mentor to proofread it too. Run it through free editing software such as Grammarly to identify any structural errors that you might have missed out on.

Don’ts

1) Use generic phrases

Hiring managers go through hundreds of cover letters each week, and they are tired of reading generic words and phrases like “ambitious,” “hard-working,” and “detail-oriented.” No matter what the job, hiring managers always expect you to be hard-working, so leave it out of your letter. Use precise words that are evocative of your specific skill sets instead.

2) Use words like ‘always’ and ‘never.’

Words like ‘always’ and ‘never’ can be off-putting for the hiring manager, especially if you are a fresh graduate looking for your first job. Don’t draw unnecessary attention to the fact that you have ‘never’ done something – instead, talk about the experiences and skills that you do have. At the same time, remember that no one is ‘always’ good at something, so avoid using the word.

3) Mention attributes that are not relevant to the company

Every word of your letter should be connected to the company, the role they are offering and your suitability for it. Do not include any accomplishments or skills, however impressive, which do not have any direct relevance to the job you are applying for.

For instance, you might be an award-winning archer, but unless that has some direct tie with the job or the attributes required for it, keep it out of the cover letter.

4) Talk about how you ‘feel.’

You might be extremely passionate about the job, and that’s a good thing. However, the focus of your cover letter should be on convincing your hiring manager that you are the best fit for the job, and not on how badly you want it. Stick to solid facts and proof of your competence for now – and let your enthusiasm shine through when you are called in for an interview.

Over to you

A well-crafted cover letter can be the turning point to getting you face-to-face interviews with prospective companies. Therefore, make sure you put effort into writing one. And while you apply for jobs, why not utilize your time usefully, and test your skills while on-the-go? Empass offers free online web quizzes on sought-after skills according to the industry.

Get started and test your capabilities right now!


Asavari Sharma

Asavari is a Digital Marketing & Communications Lead at Empass. You'll often find her marketing gamification for skill assessment to colleges and companies, and educating recruiters on the benefits of using AI and mobile to hire the best talent. She is also the primary author of the Empass blog.

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