Trust your week is off to a good start. This is a continuation of my earlier blog on the same topic. Should you need a context for the topic, please click here. Please also allow me this opportunity to thank everyone who read the earlier blog and took the interest to leave a like or note. Let’s get started again…
Now that you have a balanced list of potential employers (as detailed on my previous blog), the next obvious step is to get a perfect cover letter and CV. Let’s talk about the cover letter first. Back in India or rather in most South Asian countries, a cover letter is often not a necessary document when applying for jobs but here in Sweden, it is a very important and necessary document. This is your opportunity to personalize or contextualize your application to a specific company and job you are applying to. Here are some tips on writing your cover letter. Let’s start with the aesthetic aspects and then jump to details of the content.
1. To start with, pick up a nice template from the internet or choose one from Microsoft Word. Let the template or layout be the same for your cover letter and resume. See an example here from Microsoft Word.
2. Make sure your contact details are easy to find on the cover letter, preferably in the header or footer. Besides your email and phone number, include a link to your LinkedIn profile or any other source that verifies your professional experience/expertise.
3. Keep your cover letter short and precise – 2/3rd to 3/4th of a page is ideal. It should never be longer than a page. It should kindle the reader’s curiosity and hence should not be very elaborate.
4. Your cover letter should be specific to the job you are applying to. Never use a common cover letter. A common cover letter defeats the very purpose of writing one. As I wrote at the start, a cover letter is your opportunity to personalize or contextualize your application to a specific company and job you are applying to.
5. Make a clear and visible reference to the Job title, exactly as advertised or published. It’s a good idea to include it in the heading or in the title section of the cover letter. Should you know the name of the recruiter or hiring manager, address the cover letter to them. Choose to just use their first name without ‘respected sir/madam’, ‘Mr. or Mrs..’, ‘Dear’ and the like…
6. The first two lines of the cover letter will decide its own fate. A good start will hold the reader’s attention while a bad start will let it go. So, it’s important to choose your words carefully. It is important to tell the reader that this is not a common cover letter but one that is specific to the company and job being offered. For example, one cover letter that recently caught my attention was where the candidate spoke about how she always trusted the company and its baby products for her two kids. On the same lines, another candidate spoke about her desire to work for a start-up from her college days. So, the start needs to immediately convince the reader that you have an affiliation or connection with the Organization or Industry or Nature of Work that is not just professional but in a way personal.
7. The next two paragraphs should talk about ‘Why’ you want to work for the company? ‘What’ attracts you to this position? & ‘How’ your demonstrated skills and achievements of the past will give you a head-start and help you excel in the given role. Remember your answers must be ‘REAL’ & ‘GENUINE’. When you make it to the interview, you will testify your answers to these questions in person – the more real they are, the more convincing you will be with your emotions, body language and so on
- Why you want to work for the company: This is where you can affiliate to the company’s culture, values and eco-system. Should these not appeal to you, see if the business model does or if their product/service portfolio does. Looking up the company’s website should give you an understanding of their business model, portfolio, organization culture, value system… It’s important to show your appreciation to any or all of these and turn them into strong reasons for you to seek employment there.
- What attracts you to this position: This is your opportunity to show that you have read the advertised job and its requirements. Pick out two or three key responsibilities from the job-ad. Be careful with your selection, it’s important that you pick out the real key responsibilities and not the less important ones. Then, give one or two real-time examples of ‘How’ in your current or past assignments, you had discharged such or similar responsibilities and highlight connected achievements. Turn these as reasons for you to have a head-start on the role and excel quickly.
8. The last paragraph should again be short and should not be longer than 3 lines. Include one line about your personal hobbies before your closing line. Unlike most other countries, work-life balance has a very important place in Sweden and it’s important to show your appreciation to it.
9. A courteous closing line is as important as the first two lines. Remember to thank the reader for their time and finish with a line that is suggestive of the next step.
Thanks much for your time in getting this far. In the next blog, I will continue to write about tips for writing a CV, networking, being active on select forums/networks, attending interviews, negotiations and so on… Until then, wish you will all have a great week ahead.
Should any of you want me to read through your cover letters and point out suggestions, please feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.