In a recent chat with Samuel Akinlotan, a renowned HR professional, we had a brilliant exchange on crafting great cover letters. This article summarizes the brilliant points he shared with us. Preparing for your dream job? You should read every sentence.
What is the function of a cover letter?
A Cover letter is more than just a formality/courtesy — it is an opportunity to impress! It should provide further details on your suitability (skills, knowledge, behaviour, experience) for the role, what you can bring to the team & why you want the position.
The cover letter should align your qualifications, relevant skills, past & current work experience clearly to the job description & organisation to emphasise that you have done your research about the role & are keen to join the team.
Considering that the average human has a short attention span, the cover letter is like a billboard advertising the value you have to offer an employer. It is a marketing tool. Hence, the need to put your best foot forward when iterating on the cover letter.
Interesting! What do you think is the ideal length of a cover letter?
A cover letter should ideally be a one-page document addressed to the interviewer that includes your contact details, the role you are applying for and further detail surrounding the information in your CV.
What common mistakes have you encountered while reviewing cover letters?
- Repeating the CV — when candidates don’t know what to write in their cover letter, they often resort to repeating their CV. The cover letter should be an expression of your career narrative, relevant qualifications and a spice of your personality.
- Not Adding Job Related Skills-Many cover letters state how people are motivated & dependable. Even if you’re all these, those characteristics are bare minimums compared to explaining how your hard skills & experience could add value to the coy.
- Typos & GBAGAUN! — You can’t claim to have good attention to details/communication & have grammatical errors all over your cover letter. Never rely on spell check alone. Ask a someone to review before sending your cover letter.
- Using Generic Cover letter- not tailoring the cover letter to the company/job you’re applying to will put you at disadvantage for consideration. Also, you could mistakenly forget to replace a company name or job title for a previous role applied to.
- Lying — This is pretty obvious — DON’T! The HR profession is a network of people across organisations that often know each other, and they can find out any false information you provide in your cover letter. We’ll find out!!!
- Focusing too much on yourself-as much as you’re out to sell yourself, the coy is hiring because they need someone to do something for them. Communicate about yourself, but ensure it aligns with the role & how you will add value.
What’s your best hack for writing a great cover letter?
I will use the acronym L.I.V.E.
Literacy: This is ensuring you obey the basic rules of English language. Your cover letter should showcase your ability to effectively communicate via written text. Spell check & have someone review.
Identity: your cover letter should display your unique combination of skills & experience that relate to the job selection criteria. Also, express your personality, traits & drivers to give insight into why you are the best person for the job.
Value: What do you have to offer & how can you positively affect the organisation if you were to be offered the role? Sell your key strengths confidently. This will increase the likelihood of progression through the selection process.
Enthusiasm: your cover letter should bring to live your interest in the job. It is an opportunity to express that you are enthusiastic about the role, keen to be part of the team and demonstrate the value you would add.
Great! Are cover letters meant for every application process?
For every job applicant serious about landing a job, a well-written cover letter gives you a chance to sell yourself to the employer in a narrative format, and explain why you are an ideal candidate.
If the job application instructs that you should not include a cover letter, then don’t send. Also, if the job application is online, and there is no place for you to submit a cover letter, don’t worry about it. But if you had a chance to send one, do!
Golden words shared for free. As we bring this to a close, do you have a word for job applicants?
- Be vulnerable. It’s okay to ask people for advice!
- Know what you want. Take the time to reflect on your strengths & the type of work you enjoy doing.
- Build, cultivate, and utilize your network of contacts.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Create an online career brand. Building your brand simply means showcasing your expertise & passion online where employers searching the Web can find it.
- Have personal values that guide you.
- Genuinely care about others.
- Keep developing yourself.
- Be very good at whatever you do — no matter what it looks like, always give your 100%.
Do you have any recommendations on resources job applicants can explore for self development?
- Make the best use of online resources
- Follow accounts that share job tips like @TundeTASH, @hannytalker, @_AdeFunke_, @careerlifeng, @MomentsWithBren, @DaltonandWhite etc.
- Visit job boards that offer career tips.
- Join professional bodies.
- Attend @edubridge_ng academy.
Thanks, Samuel, this was a really brilliant conversation!
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