Purpose of cover letter
- A covering letter, to which you attach your resume (CV), is an extremely important element of your job hunting efforts.
- The covering letter is, if anything, even more important than your resume.
- An effective covering letter is essential if your resume is to get read at all.
- While this may seem harsh, the number of resumes received for each job posted are often substantial.
- Therefore many employers look to the covering letter to identify if it is even worth turning to the resume.
- The key purpose of the covering letter then is to catch the eye of the employer by demonstrating that you are an ideal fit for the role in question.
- It is essential that you create a link between the requirements of the job and your qualifications and experience.
- After perceiving a close match between the role requirements and your skills, the reviewing employer will move to the resume to test the qualification/experience elements, and you will have achieved your objective.
- A cover letter is a brief summary of why you are suitable for the job.
- It is your foot in the door - or not.
Sample covering letter
March 21, 2007
Marvin Black, Chair
Volunteer Calgary Inc
Dear Mr. Black,
Ref: Executive Director
As a Program Manager, I have provided consulting services to Boards of Directors and Volunteer Managers and to numerous leaders in the not-for-profit sector on topics ranging from board governance to strategic planning. Here is a list of my qualifications as they relate to your position of Executive Director:
|Your Requirements||My Qualifications|
|Ability to manage paid and unpaid staff||Over four years managing a team of 35 volunteers, including recruitment, training and coaching|
|Knowledge of budgeting process||Experience in developing program and event budgets and integrating into an organization's budget|
|Experience working with Board of Directors||Over ten years as a member of Junior League of Calgary, over four years consulting with over 50 Boards of Directors and experience as a Board member of Volunteer Edmonton|
|Ability to fundraise and build strong community relations||Experienced and successful writer of grant proposals, aligned with corporate sponsorships and supporter of core funders|
Enclosed is a resume that links other accomplishments to your requirements. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the position and how my skills will add value. Thank you for your consideration.
- If you are writing from the UK, use the full address and phone number that the Canadian employer would need to use if he/she was to contact you from Canada.
- Remember, a North American has to dial 011 to get an overseas line. The UK's country code is 44. Drop the 0 (zero) at the beginning of the local area code. Remember that North Americans are used to seeing phone numbers arranged in groups of three or four digits and separated by dashes. So a British referee's phone number would look something like:
- The breakdown of this number is as follows:
- 011 = overseas line
- 44 = UK country code
- 113 = area code for Leeds (by way of example)
- 243-2667 = referee's individual phone number (this just happens to be Marks & Spencer's number, which is being used for purposes of illustration)
- Use the Canadian convention, which is March 21, 2007.
- From the level of detail that the applicant was able to supply in the sample covering letter, above, you can tell that he/she has been provided with a full description of the position and its requirements.
- This has enabled him/her to be specific about his/her suitability for the job.
- You may be in a similar position if you are responding to a newspaper advertisement or a job posting on the Internet.
- If you are sending an unsolicited letter, however, information about a company's needs will not fall into your lap.
- You should do some research about the company to deduce what its needs are.
- You can then use the results of your findings in your covering letter.
- The fact that you have taken the trouble to familiarize yourself with the company in itself will show you in a favourable light.
- The Canadian government's Job Bank website has a couple of examples of Unsolicited Covering Letters.
- Just as it is beneficial to Canadianize your English in your resume, it also is beneficial to do so in your covering letter.
- See the entry about Language in the Wiki on Resumes.
Your foreign location
- If you are contacting a prospective Canadian employer from the UK, anything that makes your proposed arrival in Canada sound concrete is helpful.
- For example, it helps if you're able to say that you'll be visiting Canada between X date and Y date, and would appreciate a meeting during that time frame.
- Alternatively, if you are at a fairly advanced position within the immigration pipeline, you could state that too.
- Put yourself in the prospective employer's position. If someone sent you a CV from Timbuktu and said he would be immigrating to the UK at some point, would you give him another thought? Probably not. He might show up in the UK in a few years' time, and then again he might not. Even if he did land in the UK at some future date, say in three years from now, of what use would that be to your company now? On the other hand, if he said he would be visiting your city in two weeks, you would get the sense that he meant business. Those are the ways in which the prospective Canadian employer is likely to react to the signals that you send him.
- Beyond stating in your letter that you will be in a given city during a given time frame, you should not draw attention to the fact that you will need to jump through bureaucratic hoops in order to work in Canada. The prospective employer in any case will have some incling of this from your UK address. Yes, to be sure, you should have done your research and you should be ready to address the employer's concerns about the work permit application process, but those discussions are best left for the interview phase.
- For the purposes of your first contact, if you are responding to an advertisement for example, you should use the more formal, "Yours truly."
- Although it often is used in business, "Yours sincerely," is considered to be somewhat less formal.
- You might consider using the slightly less formal closing of, "Yours sincerely," if you have a built-in rapport with the prospective employer (even if you've never met him/her).
- Examples of "built-in rapport" include situations in which a business acquaintance of the prospective employer has suggested that you contact him/her or in which you have spoken on the phone with the prospective employer and he/she has said, "Sure, email me your resume."
- After the first exchange of communications, the Canadian employer rapidly will move into a more informal mode.
- He/she will address you by your first name, and any e-mails or other notes that you exchange with each other will end with, "Regards," or, "Best regards."
- The safest thing to do is to follow the potential employer's lead.
- Format the page to print on North American letter sized paper (8.5" x 11").
- Do not address your letter, "To whom it may concern." Address it to a specific person. It's ideal to find out the person's name and title. If you have those details, use, "Dear Mr. So And So," as your salutation. Even if you don't know the person's name, at least address the letter to the incumbent of a specific position, e.g., "Manager, Production Department." In this latter case, the salutation should be, "Dear Sir."
- Do not write a long letter. It should be no more than one page in length.
- Do not write long paragraphs. Short paragraphs are much easier to read.
- Do not ramble. Your covering letter is not the place to share your life story. It's an opportunity to showcase the fact that you understand one or two of the company's needs and to highlight a couple of ways in which you would be particularly well equipped to meet those needs.
- If you have worked in a variety of occupations, do not discuss your varied experience. Focus on the skills and experience that are relevant to the job for which you are applying. The only instance in which it would pay to draw attention to a diverse background is a case in which you're applying for a job that requires versatility.
- Do not say something like, "I hope you will be able to assist me in starting my new life in Canada." Remember that a prospective employer is like a customer. All your communications should convey that you understand his/her needs and are well qualified to meet those needs effectively. Your covering letter is not the place to discuss your needs.
The Canadian government's Job Bank website has more great tips on writing covering letters, along with sample covering letters.
Relevant Wiki articles
- It is recommended that you read this Wiki on Covering Letters in conjunction with the Wiki called Resume and the Wiki called Hiring Culture.
- These other Wikis contain information about the methods of communicating with prospective employers -- instances in which it is better to send hard copy letters and resumes and instances in which it is better to send electronic files, and so on.
- Indeed, it would be helpful to read all the Wiki articles in the series on Job Hunting in Canada.