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How to write a cover letter for a job

By dictionary definition, a cover letter is a letter that explains the contents of the accompanying enclosure. When you write a cover letter for a job, make sure that you explain the contents of the resume that you will attach to the cover letter. The whole point of a cover letter is to take all the factual data presented in the attached documents and give it a "literary touch". When you are sending your resume for a job, you might be faced with the following three scenarios:

  • When sending your resume for a job opening that you know exists
  • When enquiring about possible job openings
  • When requesting for help in your search for a job

For all three scenarios, some pointers to draft the cover letter are given in the following paragraphs.

  • Your cover letter in most of the cases is an introduction. Remember that first impressions are often lasting, and make sure that you write a grammatically correct letter that has no spelling mistakes.
  • Use simple language. Do not try to pepper the cover letter with high-sounding words, and do not ramble.
  • Make sure you have covered the following points in your letter:
    • Why are you writing the letter - is it to apply against a specific opening, to be kept in a "consider" list for future openings, or to be helped in your search for a job
    • Why are you interested in a job listing or a possible vacancy, or in soliciting the help of the person you are seeking help from
    • How do you fit the position listed in the job or a vacancy that may arise in the future, or how you may be helpful for the person whose help you are seeking now to get a job
    • How you intend to follow up on the situation after this letter and the resume are sent
  • If the job listing specified that the cover letter be in a particular format, make sure that you adhere to that format.
  • Include your contact information.
  • Keep it short. Try to limit yourself to one A4-sized page.

One size does not fit all!

Do not use a standard cover letter for all scenarios. Tailor your cover letter to match the situation. Highlight one or two skills or qualifications that might be very specific to the job that you are interested in.

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