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What Is the Purpose of A Cover Letter & How To Send One

Posted by | March 14, 2016 | Scholarships_CareerTips

By Perminus Wainaina

In most job adverts it is a requirement for one to send their CV and Cover Letter. Unfortunately, most of the candidates that I interact with don’t know the purpose of a cover letter. They treat a cover letter as just any other document required in the application process. For those who know the reason of having one, they make mistakes when sending out the application and as a result, employers and recruiters end up not reading them.

In this article, I’ll make a case on why you should always accompany your CV with a cover letter and most importantly how to send this important document so that employers don’t have a choice but to read them! This way, you’ll increase the chances of getting an interview.

Whether you are a fresh graduate or at a senior level, you need a cover letter

There’s no exception and employers and recruiters expect to see one.The CV does not afford you the space to expound on your skills and accomplishments in details; otherwise it would be a very lengthy document. It is through a cover letter that you demonstrate why you are the most suitable candidate for the role.

For example, if it’s an administration job and one of the requirements is a candidate able to manage a team of ten, your cover letter should provide details of how you went about managing your juniors by setting targets, monitoring and appraising their performance. In this example, mention the number of staff you supervised, including their titles and provide as much information as possible. Paint the picture for the reader; in this case, the person short listing.

With a cover letter, you can also pick a requirement and provide more details on how you’ve performed the same in your current or previous job. If for example you are in the sales profession and the job you are applying for requires a candidate to open new markets, it is in the cover letter where you demonstrate how you were responsible for establishing a new branch, say in Mombasa. Outline in details the steps you took, the challenges you faced and what you learnt. Lastly, point out how the new employer can utilize that experience.

At times, an employer will request that you indicate your current or last pay and desired salary. This information should be presented in the cover letter. Provide the details in the last paragraph as per this example, “my current/last gross pay is K’sh 50,000 and I am expecting an increase of 15% to 30% to be discussed further based on the clarification of the duties and responsibilities, and if there are other benefits.”

From the above, you can see that you need a different cover letter for every job. It is okay to have a general cover letter that summaries your skills, achievements and strong points but always make an effort to tweak an application to fit the specific needs of an employer. No two jobs or employers are the same, even when they are from the same industry. It’s through the cover letter that you demonstrate the skills, attitude and expertise to perform the job as per the expectations of the employer. And employer’s expectations are outlined in the job description/advert.

95% of employers will expect you to make an online application. With that in mind, how should you send a cover letter? For maximum impact, always copy paste the contents of the cover letter on the email body and also attach the same as a document. The reason why you should copy paste is because the cover letter should be the first thing I read when I open your email. And it’s a much better way of introducing yourself than having one line saying please find attached my CV and cover letter. In case the reader wants to print they can use the attached copy.

Is there a difference between an application letter and cover letter?

I normally get this question from those beginning their careers and my answer is, there’s no difference. Both refer to the same document. Whether you call it a cover letter or an application letter, the purpose is the same. It is a document that you send together with your CV to provide additional information on your skills and experience. Both typically provide detailed information on why you are qualified for that job you are applying for.

Lastly, be mindful of the length of your cover letter. Regardless of your qualifications and skills, a cover letter should be at most one page. And you do this by only providing relevant information. If at one time you did sales, customer service and now you are in accounting and applying for an Accountant job, you have no business outlining the sales or even customer service experience. Expound on what you’ve done or learnt as an Accountant. As a rule, restrict yourself to the job requirements.

There you have it. Make it easy for the person short listing to have confidence in your experience and skills, by sending a well thought out cover letter. That’s one way to ensure that you get called for an interview whenever you make an application.