Job Seeking During a Pandemic: 5 Tips to Writing an Effective Cover Letter

Make job hunting easier with an engaging cover letter

COVID-19 has caused widespread anxiety about job stability. Many people are wondering if they will be able to find new jobs. Fresh graduates are entering the job market at an unfortunate time. There is tension in the air for job seekers and employees everywhere.

According to St. Louis Fed projections, the coronavirus could cost 47 million jobs. The coronavirus will undeniably impact your ability to get a job due to the rise of unemployment, but it does not mean that you should give up.

Some companies are still hiring. But how will you get their attention? Besides your portfolio and resume, reel them in with your cover letter.

Writing a cover letter that gets you on the shortlist

The tips that I am about to share with you are tried and tested. I kept improving at writing my cover letter with every dismissal I got. Through trial-and-error, I managed to craft cover letters that would get me callbacks from nearly all the companies I applied to for a job.

Note: You don’t always need a cover letter for a job application, especially when you’re applying through the company’s website or a job platform. I recommend applying for a job through email as this gives you more freedom to express yourself. In the email, you should attach your cover letter, resume, and portfolio.

1. Personalise your cover letter for each company

Every cover letter should be different. There are some things that you can leave as a template, like your contact information, but you should always personalise the content.

Address the person who will be receiving your application. No more “Dear Sir/Madam”s or “To whom it may concern”s! If you cannot find the employer or recruiter’s name, address the email to the relevant departments. Be sure to state the name of the company, the position you are applying for, and where you found the job posting.

Example: “My name is [name] and I saw on [company website/job platform] that [the company] is looking for a [job position]. I am interested in applying for this position.”

Before you begin writing the rest of your cover letter, make sure you do your research about the company. In the letter, emphasise your skills in a way that speaks to the desired skill set listed in the job posting.

2. List the qualifications that make you right for the role

Begin with letting the company know your academic qualifications (if you’re a fresh graduate) or your working experience. Briefly share why you think you would be a good fit for the position.

Example: “I have X years of experience in [industry]. In those years, I have done/worked with [job/client]. I believe that my passion for [function/skill] makes me a suitable candidate for this position.”

3. Wow them with your skills

Sometimes, your academic qualifications and working experiences aren’t enough to convince an employer to hire you. Your qualifications don’t always guarantee that you can do the job or that you can get along with the other employees! This is where you need to do some convincing.

There are two types of skills that you should mention:

  1. Job-specific skills: Skills that are needed to allow you to excel in your job. What kind of software can you use? Which aspects of the job can you do? List them down to let your potential employer know that you have a skill set that matches the job.
  2. Personal skills: A lot of companies seek candidates with excellent personal skills. Employees must know how to interact and work together with others. People with exceptional personal skills are also highly motivated and more likely to be reliable.

Don’t forget to give brief examples of how you used your job-specific and personal skills in real life. Some personal skills that employers value are:

  • Critical thinking & problem-solving: You can analyse situations and make informed decisions.
  • Flexibility & dependability: You are prepared to assist colleagues in projects and adjust yourself to undertake projects beyond your call of duty.
  • Highly motivated: You bring your greatest effort into work and improve on your mistakes and failures with optimism.
  • Excellent communication: You are collaborative, a good listener, friendly, respectful, and work well in teams.
  • Detail-oriented: You prefer to analyse a problem thoroughly before resolving it and plan before handling any tasks.

It is common knowledge that you should always add your qualifications in your resume, but don’t forget to add your skills too! Use the cover letter as a chance to elaborate on those skills.

4. Why do you want this job?

This is where you start driving your point home. Put in the effort to learn about what the company does and use this opportunity to show them what you know. Citing your skills, explain why you think you’re a perfect fit for the role.

Here are some questions you should consider answering:

  • What kind of opportunities are you looking for?
  • Do want to develop new skills or are you trying to improve on your specialisations?
  • How do you think working with this company will help? Why did you choose this company?
  • What can you contribute?

Show your knowledge and enthusiasm about the company. Don’t make it seem like you’re just trying your luck! You need to show that you actually want it. Convince them that this position makes sense for you and is not just a stepping stone in your career.

5. Seal it with editing and design

Now when I say design, I don’t actually mean designing the cover letter with visual graphics. Your document needs to look visually appealing in a way that does not intimidate your reader with too much text.

It is tempting to get carried away with trying to convince someone to hire you, but resist the urge! Here are some tips for editing your cover letter:

  • Clarity above all: Keep your sentences short and straightforward. Remove any redundant or repetitive points.
  • Waste no time: Get to the point quickly. Stop beating around the bush. The employer or recruiter does not have all day.
  • Don’t sound smart, be smart: You don’t have to overcrowd your cover letter with business jargons to impress.
  • Bold the first sentence in every paragraph: Consider the first sentence in your paragraph as a signpost for your readers. It is the topic sentence. Use the rest of the paragraph to elaborate.
  • Brevity: Don’t write a single sentence more than two lines. Make sure no one has to read more than once to understand what you’re saying.

Subsequently, you might want to consider putting your cover letter into a beautiful template for an extra touch. There are many websites offering cover letter templates that are free for you to use!

Do I really need a cover letter?

Your cover letter could help you to stand out or get ignored, thus making it worthwhile for you to invest time and effort into writing a great one.

However, is it essential? I ran a quick poll on Twitter to find out.

The poll showed that slightly over 60% of employers do not mind not getting cover letters. The cases for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are shown below:

So if cover letters are not necessary, then why should we still write it? Surely if it is optional, you’re better off not wasting time, right? To me, it is simple: If you are serious about the job, the cover letter is not optional.

A cover letter is more than just a greeting. It should complement your resume. It helps explain to recruiters why you are the perfect candidate.

As though job seeking isn’t already difficult, the coronavirus outbreak has made it worse. It has impacted employers, employees, and job seekers everywhere. Even though many companies have frozen their hiring, it does not mean that you should pause your job search.

The job market might be a ruthless place for the next few months. Use this time to polish your online presence or brush up on your skills. When companies are finally looking to hire, you would want to be prepared. Opportunities will arise!

This article was originally published in Writer’s Blokke.