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How to write an effective cover letter? – With real example
The conceptual realization
First of all, what is a cover letter for?
It’s usually uploaded together with your resume, which means that it should compliment what’s missing in your resume.
I’ve written a cover letter for an Intel application. I waited, waited and waited with no final response.
While waiting, I did some online research and one conclusion convinced me:
“Cover letter should be the tool you use to land yourself an interview opportunity.”
This is a wake-up call. With this line, I realized countless critical details behind a cover letter and this realization helped me landed every interview I wanted later during my job-hunting period. Finally, I knew that there was no need for waiting. With the right tool, in this case the cover letter, the HR person will call you right the next day. If you can convince people that you are the one, they don’t want to and can’t afford to miss you.
If resume is the portfolio that demonstrates related past experiences (which I will talk about in another hub), cover letter is your customized book-cover that immensely intrigues the hiring manager.
Here comes the second question: how can you attract the hiring manager on paper?
Show your passion and interest
There is no use in repeating in various ways that I am very enthusiastic about this position. You tell people that you really care through subtle details.
For example, you’ve incorporated your personal passion into the big picture of the target company’s roadmap.
Give a strong hint that you are the right candidate
Nobody believes you just by the statement that I believe I am the perfect candidate for this position. Instead, the hiring manager trusts his/her own judgment.
That’s why summarizing your characteristics and experiences as closely related to the hiring criteria as possible would be a great idea.
Take care of the basics
Even if you are the right person for the job, wearing all rags to the interview might still kill your chance. Therefore, take care of the basics.
There are countless templates you can reference for the format and style of an appropriate cover letter. Just pick one you like and customize with your information, such as available date, contact number etc.
Step-by-step guide with real examples
So much about reasoning, now let’s get started to craft an effective cover letter.
Step 1: Fishbone outline
First paragraph is always about how you learned about this position and became interested, your current status and available date. Keep it brief.
Here is my example:
To whom it may concern,
From the XXX(company name) website I learned about your need for a process engineer. I am very interested in this position and would like to apply. I will complete my MS in Mechanical Engineering in XX (month/date) and will be available for employment starting from then.
Second paragraph is a summary of your most critical experience related to this position.
In the final paragraph, you reiterate your interests and intention. Leave your contact information and express your appreciation respectfully.
Step 2: Craft the main body- second paragraph
Nobody can screw up the first paragraph. That’s why this second paragraph is your chance to shine. Remember that this is the “to be or not to be” part. If your summary makes think that you might be the right one and want to open your resume, your cover letter would’ve accomplished its mission. If there is nothing of much interest, the hiring manager stops read this letter and won’t even look at your resume.
Carefully study the job description and requirements beforehand. Use the same keywords in your cover letter. That makes you empathetic. Be specific but don’t go into deep details. Remember that both HR person and the hiring manager (may or may not know your expertise area), will read your cover letter.
Additionally, this paragraph should only be an effective summary since your resume is the one to reveal all the wonderful details. You can make it multiple paragraphs if you want, just don’t forget that cover letter should mostly be on one page.
To be more organized, your summary can be listed in bullets. The easier the hiring manager can read, the higher the chances are that you can brainwash him/her with your application.
Step 3: Customize the final touch – last chance to shine
The last one can be as simple as directly using a template. However, making better use of it, this can be your last chance to shine.
As a final statement, it can be customized to include the company’s future roadmap and how you can contribute to that blueprint. This again, shows your passion and leaves the hiring manager with the final impression that you are a responsible person who’ve done the background research.
Below is my example. Notice that adding a little bit flavor on top of any template, makes a big difference.
As XX(company name) is rapidly growing in the market of delivering value-added product/service for the XX industry, I found this vision very compelling and myself with the perfect background to pursue a career in this direction. I believe I will be able to make significant contributions through solving product quality and process performance issues with the team as a process engineer (customize depending on how you think you can contribute). Enclosed is a copy of my resume with detailed information about my qualifications. Thank you very much for your consideration. I enthusiastically look forward to receiving your reply.
I hope that my lessons learned can provide some insights for your personal career search. The best interview is on the way.