Daniela McVicker

Writing that Winning Cover Letter - Your Ultimate Guide

We welcome Daniela McVicker who has written her first piece for us at Zenopa. Daniela is a career coach and an editor at RatedbyStudents. She’s also a business communication coach, helping future job applicants to write business emails to help them achieve success on their career paths. Here she has written her own hints and tips on writing that winning cover letter... 

"For many job applicants, a cover letter is almost an afterthought. They focus on their resume or CV, in the belief that an employer does the same, giving little attention to that letter. And many applicants who submit their documents online don’t even bother with a cover letter at all.

“Freelance Writer Daniela McVicker has written hints and tips on writing a winning cover letter. “

This is a huge mistake. Employers do at least scan through cover letters, and, if something catches their attention, they are likely to read the entire piece. If you write them well, then, you have the chance to make a compelling first impression and set yourself up for a closer look at your other documents.

And so, give those cover letters the attention they deserve. Here is a guide to make yours an amazing piece of writing.

First the Basics

Length: Your cover letter should be no more than one page (preferably not a full page) and no more than 4 - 6 paragraphs.

Write a unique cover letter for each job application. Generic cover letters are not only boring, they tell a potential employer that you are lazy – a horrible first impression.

Address it to an individual, if that name is available. If not, you can leave off a greeting altogether or use the salutation, “To Whom It May Concern.”

You should sign off with an ending like “Sincerely,” or “Yours Truly.”

Now the Key Tips

1. It’s Not About You

Of course, you are applying for jobs because you want to start or further your career. In your mind, it is all about you. But if that is how you approach your cover letter, you will be a “reject.” No employer wants to know what you want; he wants to know what value you can bring to his organization. Think about the background, skills, and talents you have that will make you a good candidate and write them down. Later, you will pare this list down, but just get everything down on paper now.

2. Pour Over that Position Description

Every job posting has a description of the position and the required and/or preferred qualifications. You need to spend a lot of time studying the posting and looking for important keywords and phrases that are included.

Now is where that list you made comes into play. Which three items on that list most meet what is in the posting? These are the three items you will be mentioning in your cover letter. You can use more than 3 if you can group a couple together.

3. Time for a Bit of Self-Promotion

Of course, your resume will focus on your background and experience. Most experienced candidates use a chronological format to list their jobs, responsibilities, and achievements. Brand new graduates, of course, do not have such a luxury, but their resumes often “look” the same. They list their leadership positions during their academic careers, internships, and such.

The cover letter should never be any type of chronological listing. Instead, it should focus on those 3 skills you are highlighting, as they relate to achievements and accomplishments in your background. Each skill should take up one of your body paragraphs, and provide at least one example of how you used that skill to accomplish something important.

Be specific with your examples and include numbers and figures when you can. (e.g., as President of the “Future Business Leaders of America,” I grew membership from a mere 23 to 68 during my term).

The point is this: you do not just want to repeat your resume. You want to create enough interest in you so that the employer wants to read your resume more carefully.

4. Be Professional but True to Yourself

Of course, you are not going to use slang terms; at the same time, being too sophisticated will appear a bit “fake.” You have to find the balance between professional and the “real you,” who speaks more casually.

You can also take clues about how professional you must be by studying the posting and then thoroughly reviewing the organization’s website and social media pages. There’s a huge difference between the language style, and tone of a conservative investment firm and a young, new startup company. Craft your language and tone accordingly, but never try to be someone you are not. It will eventually come out if you make the cut for an interview.

Let some of your personality come through so that the reader sees you as someone who could be interesting or enjoyable to work with, or at least meet face-to-face. Your foot is then in the proverbial door.

5. Grammar Goofs – Big No-No

If you were never the best writer in those English comp courses, you probably already know that everything you write in your application documents must be edited by someone who is an expert. If you have a friend or colleague whose writing skills are amazing, great. If not, find the best editing service you can and have that cover letter professionally reviewed and edited. You cannot afford any mistakes.

Your Takeaway

Here are the overriding points:

Never skip writing a cover letter

Write a unique letter for each position

Focus on 3 achievements that match the job description

Put a bit of your own personality into the letter

Be certain that letter is perfectly written

Is it fun to write these things? No, of course not. But over time, you will get better and better at it."

If you're looking to start your career, a new challenge or you would like to completely change your career path. We at Zenopa can help. 

We offer recruitment services in Sales, Marketing, Engineering,Technical, Management and Director roles in Pharmaceutical, Over the Counter (Consumer)ScientificMedical DevicesDental, Animal Health and Healthcare Communication sectors. 

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