“Hello, my name is Julia and I’m applying for the job you’re offering. Why should you give me a chance? Because I went to school and studied and have done three internships so far – as you can see on my resume.”
Honestly? This is boring. Every headhunter is able to read documents about you, including your resume. So keep in mind that your cover letter template shouldn’t just be a summary of your curriculum vitae. You found a job on one of the careers websites or someone sent you a link to a job posting on LinkedIn? Now you’re keen to apply for this position? Go for it. But make sure that you haver the best cover letter available.
Just a sheet of paper?
Even if it seems to be annoying at the beginning to sit down and articulate clearly why you are the best for a given job, you shouldn’t neglect the importance of cover letter. Poor cover letter! That isn’t a way to handle it. In contrast: It is a chance to say everything you can’t say in your resume – which quite often can be a lot. It covers your profile, it forms the foundation of your and it is the start of the whole application process.
A professional cover letter offers the chance to make a case. There you can tell your future employer a story – your own story. You have enough room to express yourself in your own words, to analyze yourself as a perfect performer and to alert people to have a look at you. A good cover letter might be a duty to write but it comes along with many advantages as well.
Select your words with caution
A cover letter is often the first written contact with a potential employer. There is no doubt that the words on this sheet of paper should be selected with caution. It makes your application well-rounded. Its purpose is to interpret the data-oriented resume and to accommodate a personal touch. As you know from personal networking, the first impression is the most important one. Take your time to create an impression that will be kept positively in your employer’s mind.
The letter typically accompanies each resume you send out. It may make the difference between obtaining a job interview and having your application ignored. To take advantage of its full potential, follow these steps.
Cover letters: types and examples
There are three general types of cover letters. The application letter which responds to a known job opening, the speculative letter which inquires about possible job opportunities and the networking letter which requests information and assistance in your job search. The basics of every letter are contact information, a salutation, the body of the cover letter, an appropriate closing statement and a signature.
Design your cover letter specifically for your purpose and the chosen position. Be careful: Especially if you’re applying for more than one job, don’t just change the recipient’s name. Instead of using the one-size-fits-all letter think about which focus you’ll set first. Yes, to be honest, brainstorming can be time-consuming but it’s necessary to build up relations between you and the organization.
What should be included?
When thinking about how to write a cover letter for a job application, try to follow these three basic steps: Why you are writing and which role you are applying for, what you have to offer the employer and how you will follow-up.
- First paragraph
- Reasons for writing and which position you are applying for
- Why do you want to work at Allianz Group? Find clues here and name the ones which are important to you
- Keep it short, with the objective of inspiring the reader
- Second paragraph
- Pick out major achievements and provide the story to back these up
- Describe, how your skills and experience will be a good match for the job
- Support your introduction
- Third paragraph
- Wrap things up with the final sentence
- Repeat the job title and organization to further position yourself as the right person for the job in the reader’s mind
- Thank the reader, mention your attachments, tell the employer you’re looking forward to an interview
Effective cover letters identify your most relevant skills or experiences. When you write down all these characteristics think about the employer’s self-interests. They are relevant and should express the strong commonalities between you and the organization or position. They should convey a high level of interest and knowledge about the job as well. Therefore, make sure your letter explains how your skills relate to the criteria listed in the job posting.
Include recognition keywords like analyzed, programmed, designed, created, built, taught and trained in your cover letter to increase your chances of getting selected for an interview – but try to stay yourself.
The idea of being someone special
Remember, all hard facts are listed in your resume so they aren’t necessary at this point. Here you can concentrate on other specifics or showcase your accomplishments: Think about the issue which makes you unique. Besides the skills you gained in your student jobs and theoretical knowledge you learned at university – what else can you do or which talents should be mentioned to highlight you as a well-qualified employee? What specific responsibilities have you had so far? For orientation as to what can be important have a look at your job references.
Apart from seeing the cover letter template as a platform for selling your personal brand, it can also be used for explanations: Here you can formulate, in well-chosen words, why you changed your course of studies or why you went on a round-the-world trip after high school. The only requirement for this: you find good reasons for these decisions. Most pieces of your life’s path can be articulated in a positive and relevant style for your career.
Why select you? The beginning of a new career path
Do you remember the possibility to apply via mobile system at Allianz Group? Sometimes recruiters set up a new job offering and mark it as a “Apply Directly on your Mobile Device”. This means, you can apply directly with naming one relevant job experience as well as your education and contact number. In this case you don’t need to write a cover letter or describe your motivation. However, this is brand new and a major exception in the world of applications.
In all other cases you start with a cover letter template and end with a last check: Did you write the name of the employer or headhunter correctly? Did you close your letter in a professional manner? Have you been able to name-drop any people in this organization who may know you? Did you integrate results oriented language? Did someone else proofread it so there are no typos or misunderstandings in it? Will you still mention the same info if you get invited to a job interview? And be honest: Would you employ yourself with this cover letter?
A professional cover letter makes sure your curriculum vitae gets noticed. This is the place to convince the recruiter that you are the best match for this job. He or she doesn’t have the time to read every resume, every piece of sample work and every certification. Take the chance and take the space to tell your own story in your own words. Get the people to know you.
written by Christina Hubmann
For fresh-faced college graduates looking to land that first job, standing out from the crowd is never easy.
Matthew Ross did just that.
In January 2013 he penned a now famous email cover letter to a managing director at Wall Street firm Duff and Phelps asking for an internship. In it, he said he "won't waste your time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job titles, or feeding you a line of crap about how my past experiences and skill set align perfectly for an investment banking internship."
Ross also claimed to "have no qualms about fetching coffee, shining shoes, or picking up laundry."
Read the full email cover letter here
The email quickly made its way across trading desks from New York to London, and within half an hour Ross was fielding calls from reporters and multiple employers looking to interview him.
Flash forward a year and a half and Ross has the job he wanted. He is an investment banking analyst at Duff & Phelps in Los Angeles. CNNMoney talked to him and some of his bosses to see how his no nonsense attitude proved fruitful.
A big gamble: When he sat down to write the cover letter, Ross yearned for an edge. He was about to graduate from San Diego State University. It's a good school but it lacked the prestige of some others in California, such as Cal-Berkeley, Stanford, UCLA and USC.
"I was reading through some cover letters, and they were all fluff to me, everyone was embellishing and lying," Ross said. "I wanted to take a fresh approach, tell the truth, and be brutally honest."
It worked. The Duff & Phelps managing director he emailed promptly got him an interview in the firm's L.A. office. "I was shocked. When I clicked send, I thought there was a 50% chance he'd respond," Ross said.
Foot in the door: With a 3.9 grade point average in accounting, Ross was obviously a strong candidate. But his resume was not too different from the hundreds of others that Duff & Phelps receives for internship opportunities, according to Sherry Cefali, who heads up the firm's L.A. office.
When Ross came in to interview, Cefali and the other hiring managers were extremely impressed. He was articulate and had good answers to the firm's tedious technical questions.
"The cover letter opened the door but he really did get the job on his own," Cefali said.
Treated like everyone else: Once Ross arrived at Duff & Phelps, he was placed right at the bottom of the totem pole and received no special attention. Still, he loved it.
"I was just pretty much thrown in," Ross said. "I tried to be disciplined, to work hard, to do what's asked of me without raising any questions or raising any flags."
That strategy promptly paid off. After only two months of his internship, Ross was offered a full-time job in the mergers and acquisitions group. He works mainly on deals involving the consumer, food, and retail sectors. The hours are grueling, but Ross relishes the rewarding feeling of finishing up a big deal. His superiors have taken notice.
"Matt's always the guy that's going to raise his hand," said Jordan Lampos, a Duff & Phelps vice president. "You know the work level is going to be good and there's going to be a high level of accountability. "
Advice for others: Lampos thinks that the fact that Ross didn't come from an elite university may have helped motivate him to succeed.
He said new employees who graduate from top colleges often have investment banks fawning over them, which can sometimes lead to a sense of entitlement. "They don't take it as seriously or they're not as grateful for it," he believes.
As for Ross, he tells investment banking hopefuls to stay resilient in their job search. Though he admits he "probably got lucky that the cover letter exploded the way he did," he's doing what he can to help others get noticed.
When SDSU students reach out to him for advice, he passes along their resumes to the human resources department at Duff & Phelps.
"Hopefully they'll get an interview or foot in door," he said. "It's up to them at that point."
CNNMoney (New York) First published July 30, 2014: 12:12 PM ET