Your step-by-step guide to writing cover letters that stand out (for fresh grads)
Almost every article out there offering tips on writing cover letters and/or CVs stress the same thing: it needs to stand out from the crowd. But that’s much easier said than done. HOW EXACTLY does one come up with a cover letter that knocks the HR Manager’s socks off?
Keep reading and we’ll tell you how.
But before we drill down into specifics, let’s take a look at the difference in formatting between an email and print cover letter, as well as sample cover letters for candidates with internship experience and without internship experience. Click on this article to find out.
The COVER Acronym
We’ll use specific examples to demonstrate how to write a cover letter that’s uniquely you, using the simple and easy-to-remember “COVER“ acronym coined by The Muse. However, the one crucial ingredient that’s needed is personality.
It’s important to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. The letter needs to speak to you, not at you. The reader needs to be engaged and interested enough to keep reading, and most importantly, he or she needs to like you enough to include your letter in the shortlist pile.
The COVER acronym applies for both fresh grads and experienced applicants, though we will point out specific examples for both groups below.
C - CALL OUT leadership positions, relevant awards, and advanced skills right at the start.
The key thing to bear in mind is that you need to provide the Hiring Manager with clear and compelling reasons to shortlist you. This means drawing attention to experiences, achievements and skills that will add value to the team and company.
“I trust that having managed complex projects involving communication and coordination with international teams in different parts of the world makes me an ideal candidate for your International Project Manager position.”
Refer to the requirements listed in the job description—your statements should demonstrate how you meet those key requirements. This will ensure that the Hiring Manager has a reason to keep reading.
The above applies for fresh grads too, but instead of actual work experience (which you obviously lack), you can highlight leadership positions in sports teams, social clubs and organisations, as well as competition awards and outstanding academic and social achievements.
O - OFFER STATSto illustrate your contributions to previous teams and companies.
Numbers don’t lie, and they’re specific and clear. Employers love numbers. Using statistics to demonstrate your achievements is an easy way to score bonus points with the Hiring Manager. It tells him or her that you’re results-driven and goal-oriented.
Examples of good statistics include:
% increase in customer satisfaction ratings, % boost in profit margins, $$$ of additional sales turnover generated, % savings achieved due to improved processes or initiatives, etc.
For fresh grads, this is where internships or volunteering experience comes in handy. Alternatively, part-time work experience with relevant responsibilities would provide good examples too.
V - VERIFY THE RECIPIENT’S NAME.
Surprisingly few people do this, but details like these make a world of difference. Would you prefer to receive a letter addressed to your name, or one that says “To the HR Manager”?
In the event that you can’t find the name online, you’ll need to get resourceful. Call up the company and ask for the name of the Hiring Manager who’s responsible for the position you’re applying for. Whatever you do, never ever use a general greeting such as “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Mr/Miss”.
That just says you can’t be bothered to find out the name of the person who’s going to be deciding whether you get the job or not. Remember, it’s all about the personal touch.
E - EXEMPLIFY YOUR STRENGTHS.
Even though it’s common practice to use vague and generic descriptions (employers are equally guilty of this)—you should avoid words such as “team player”, “people-person”, “good communication skills”, “dynamic”, “resourceful”, the list goes on and on.
Your goal should be to get the message across as quickly and efficiently as possible, This means citing specific examples that clearly illustrate your strengths and skills. Use descriptive statements such as “I’m used to working in multicultural teams and dealing with people from different social classes and backgrounds.”
If possible, use the cover letter as a medium to illustrate your skills. For example, if you’re applying for a Communications or Journalistic position, you’ll want to make sure that the letter is word perfect and error-free besides being well written. If you’re a Graphic Designer, the letter will need to be a visual work of art.
For fresh grads, likewise here, highlight relevant skills and experiences from university, internships or part-time jobs.
R - REFRAIN FROM REGURGITATING information already detailed in your CV.
In contrast with your CV which uses formal and business-like language, your cover letter should be written with a more personal tone, using language that expresses your personality. This affords you some flexibility in elaborating on key points and providing a fuller picture of who you are to your potential employer.
Don’t just copy and paste phrases from your CV into your cover letter word for word. That’s just a waste of time and space.
Fresh grads: remember to maintain a professional albeit friendly tone in the language. “Personal” doesn’t mean casual. If you’re not good in writing and need a hand, there’s nothing wrong in asking friends or family members for some help.
And that’s it. It requires more thought and preparation to write a personalized cover letter, but it will be well worth the effort when you get called for an interview.
JobStreet.com is a leading online job board presently covering the employment markets in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam. JobStreet.com currently services over 230,000 corporate hirers and over 15 million jobseekers in its database.
About SEEK Asia
JobStreet.com is part of SEEK Asia, which is the leading online employment market place in Asia. SEEK Asia covers 7 countries namely Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
SEEK Asia is the extension of the Australian Securities Exchange listed company called SEEK. The company’s purpose is to help improve people’s lives through a better career. SEEK Asia’s database consist of over 500,000 corporate hirers and over 24 million candidates.
For more information about this article, or to schedule an interview with JobStreet.com Philippines, please call Mark Nichol Turija, Content Marketing Specialist, at 286-6222.
How to Address a Cover Letter
Addressing a cover letter can be tricky if you are responding to a job listing and either don’t have a contact person’s name or don't know the hiring manager's gender.
First of all, take the time to try and find out the name and gender of the contact person. Some employers will think poorly of an applicant who does not take the time to find out the hiring manager’s name.
However, if you do some research and are still not sure to whom you are addressing your letter, it's better to be safe and use a generic greeting or none at all.
It's acceptable to start a letter without a greeting.
Read below for advice on how to address a cover letter, and example salutations.
Options for Addressing a Cover Letter
When you're not sure to whom to address your cover letters, you have a few options.
The first is to find out the name of the person you are contacting. If the name is not included on the job listing, you might look up the title of the employer or hiring manager on the company website. If there is a contact number, you might also call and ask an administrative assistant for the name of the hiring manager.
If you cannot discover the name of the contact person at the company, you can either leave off the salutation from your cover letter and start with the first paragraph of your letter, or use a general salutation.
Tips for Using a General Salutation
There a variety of general cover letter salutations you can use to address your letter.
These general cover letter salutations do not require you to know the name of the hiring manager.
In a survey of more than 2,000 companies, Saddleback College found that employers preferred the following greetings:
- Dear Hiring Manager (40%)
- To Whom It May Concern (27%)
- Dear Sir/Madam (17%)
- Dear Human Resources Director (6%)
How to Address a Cover Letter for a Non Gender-Specific Name
If you do have a name but aren't sure of the person's gender, one option is to include both the first name and the last name in your salutation, without any sort of title that reveals gender:
- Dear Sydney Doe
- Dear Taylor Smith
With these types of gender-ambiguous names, LinkedIn can be a helpful resource. Since many people include a photo with their profile, a simple search of the person's name and company within LinkedIn could potentially turn up the contact's photograph.
Again, you can also check the company website or call the company’s administrative assistant to get more information as well.
What Title to Use
Even if you know the name and gender of the person to whom you are writing, think carefully about what title you will use in your salutation. For example, if the person is a doctor or holds a Ph.D., you might want to address your letter to “Dr. Lastname” rather than “Ms. Lastname” or “Mr. Lastname.” Other titles might be “Prof.,” “Rev.,” or “Sgt.,” among others.
Also, when you address a letter to a female employer, use the title “Ms.” unless you know for certain that she prefers another title (such as Miss or Mrs.).
“Ms.” is a general title that does not denote marital status, so it works for any female employer.
How to Format a Salutation
Once you have chosen a salutation, follow it with a colon or comma, a space, and then start the first paragraph of your letter. For example:
Dear Hiring Manager:
First paragraph of letter.
Spell Check Names
Finally, before sending your cover letter, make absolutely sure that you have spelled the hiring manager’s name correctly. That is the kind of small error that can cost you a job interview.
Cover Letter Examples
Here are examples of cover letters addressed to a hiring manager, cover letters with a contact person, and more samples to review.
How to Write a Cover Letter
This guide to writing cover letters has information on what to include in your cover letter, how to write a cover letter, cover letter format, targeted cover letters, and cover letter samples.