Updated: Sep 15, 2020
We will be covering some of the best practices to write a fantastic cover letter !
I believe that simple problems beget simple solutions. In my view a good cover letter communicates and appeals both to the subconscious and the conscious of the reader. Taking a cue from above, in this article we will discuss 3 critical elements that tie your narrative together in the cover letter.
1. Before delving deep , I want to highlight the point of always knowing your audience. The heart of any successful communication strategy is to know whom are you talking to.
2. The below practices worked like a charm for me for consulting and strategy role. In my experience the fundamental levers of success shouldn't change but I'd be mindful of the sectors when writing the letter. For eg- In consulting, both your resume' and cover letter shouldn't exceed 1 page at any cost because its an industry that rewards crisp communication as you deal with CXOs on a regular basis.
3. Don't be lazy and please write the letter yourself from scratch rather than copy paste. Use very simple easy to understandable language. If possible, share the draft with 5 close friends to receive feedback.
Step I (The Hardest One): What is YOUR Why
This is how you open your cover letter. This is your chance to dream a dream and share it too. Basically you start with the end in my mind. This is the biggest differentiation because not many professionals know their end and if they do they are not good at articulating it. It shows clarity of thought and writing- something employers love dearly !
Now you ideally should not change your dreams a.k.a. starting sentence basis where you apply and that's why I recommend applying for position with high fit as it leads to greater conversion and success. I may anticipate your questions regarding how to find your why. I'd only leave you with the thoughts that you should spend more time with your self, and experience new areas but this is a detailed topic for another day.
For your reference, below is an excerpt from my personal cover letters I have used in past-
"In next 5 years, my goal is to drive investment policies in India especially for marginalized sections- women and lower caste citizens- living under tenuous conditions".
Step II: Why You
Part A: Now that you have mentioned your dream, you tie it to the role. This is the section where you show your fit with the role and how you can contribute to it. You delve into your experiences while minimizing the show off around big titles or organizations. However, you must definitely mention the big names (Harvard/Microsoft/Goldman/Google/Mckinsey etc.) if you have. The important aspect is to highlight the SKILLS you have gained with your experiences. Note that we are not talking of big words such as leadership , rather specific skills such as- problem solving, partnership management etc.
For your reference, below is an excerpt from my personal cover letters- "During the process, I developed many skills relevant to the XYZ role including problem solving, policy analysis, policy execution, new business development, stakeholder management, partnerships, strategic planning, day-to-day project management to resolve governance issues for rural India.".
Part B: Moving on , you now throw names of employees of your potential employer. You schedule and get on calls with employees. This section basically shows you have done your H.W. well. Why does this work ? Because very few people do it successfully and ever fewer are good at writing about it.
For your help, below is an excerpt from my personal cover letters-
"After talking to ABC in detail, I am sure XYZ firm should be the next step in my career and contribute to nation building at large during such trying times.. "
Step II: Why Them
Last but not the least you wrap up strongly by highlighting why is the said employer best fit for you. For eg- rather than using generic words for an industry, you research specific elements of that particular firm. You may leverage 1 hack I have found helpful- organization's mission statements are a great place to find such unique elements.
Again, for the last time, below is an excerpt from my personal cover letters-
"XYZ stands out for its global visionary leaders who create opportunities for people. Such a philanthropic environment will complement my leadership skills and strengthen my policy in investment practice. "
I can imagine all of this may seem a little over-whelming especially when you are desperate to grab a job in uncertain trying times. But trust me once you create your template then every time you apply, you need to plug in tailor made information for your employer to stand out !
And that's how you carve and narrate your powerful story and gain competitive edge against your peers. Because stories are more powerful than stats.
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