Cover letters, am I right? Who actually reads these things anyway? You already have a resume with all the information the recruiter is going to need so why waste more time.

That thinking would have maybe worked in the past (and even then, I’m not so sure about that), but today’s market place is a competitive one. If you do not send a cover letter along, you can bet someone else did. Then you become the person who has all the needed skills, but lacks that professional business acumen. You do not want that.

In addition, a cover letter is a great way to put your skills in the right context while demonstrating your ability to communicate effectively. Recruiters will read the cover letter in order to judge a whole bunch of stuff like you enthusiasm, professionalism writing style and even attention to detail. If you do not have a cover letter, you had better get one.

So, how do you write a cover letter? Great question, I’m glad you asked.

You want to keep it short, try to get it between 250-300 words. You may be tempted to write in order to show your command of the English language, but the reader is more interested in see how effective you can communicate within a certain space. Fewer words are generally better and try to stick to these three parts:

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Part 1-the Introduction

Your first paragraph should do two things.

First: be sure to mention the job title and where you saw it. I know of some recruiters who source for up to 150 different positions at a time. If you do not tell them what job you are applying for, they are not going to try to figure it out for you.

Second: Mention two things that make you right for the job. As a student, 95% of the time these 2 things will be your education and past work experience. However, if the job posting as for specific things like leadership and communications, then those are the two things you should talk about.

Part 2-Talk about the 2 things

If you are comfortable writing in a narrative style, you can use examples to detail your fit for the job. Be sure to pick one example for each of the things and keep it to one example per paragraph. You are going to be tempted to try to jam everything you have ever done into each paragraph. This is not effective communication. Instead, pick an example that details your education and one that details your experience.

If you do not feel comfortable with your writing, you can use bullet points. Be sure that your bullet points speak to the job requirements and that they are specific and unique. Avoid things like

  • Effective communication.
  • Strong leadership skills.
  • Ability to multitask

You need to clearly show how you fill the needs of the posting, so be sure to do just that. Keep it to around 4-5 bullet points and no more the 2 lines per bullet.

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Phase 3 – Call to Action

Here you want to start by jam-packing the soft skills in there. Something like “I am a hardworking, dedicated professional with an attention to detail who takes pride in getting the job done”. Really lay it on.

Finally be sure to actually ask for an interview. Phrasing like “I am confident my resume warrants a face to face meeting…” should do the trick. Give them 1 point of contact for them to use. Remember you want them to contact you, so make the choice easy. “Feel free to call me at…” or “I can be reached via email at….” Your resume has all the contact information anyway, this is about getting them to call you.

Once you have the three parts down on paper you can then edit, edit, edit and proofread, proofread, proofread. A spelling mistake shows a lack of attention to detail and that is not the message you want to send. If you need some help, be sure to drop by the TRSM Career Centre and visit us in trs2-148 or check us out on twitter @TRSMcareers.

Need help writing your resume?

Posted by Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy is Manager of the TRSM Business Career Hub. He has over 10 years of experience helping students successfully navigate the job search process. His areas of expertise are resume writing, interviews, and Batman-related trivia.

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