The cover letter is your first opportunity to show your new employer that you are a critical thinker, experienced in your field, and understand the role being offered. To convey these three qualities, your cover letter must stick to the most basic points of your priorities while also demonstrating an attention to detail and strong personality. Keep it brief at about one page or 300-500 words to show off your best sides.
Understanding the Role
Before you start writing, consider what your potential employer is looking for in a candidate. They will describe in great detail what skills and experience they are looking for, but go further than this to guess what they’re really seeking. Most interviewers have long lists of prerequisites and job duties, but it is up to you to get at the essence of the work. This will require you to research the company and to decide in advance how your abilities will fit into their broader priorities and goals. Reading between the lines will show that you are analytical and easily adaptable, making you a favorable candidate.
Once you’ve shown that you understand the future expectations to be placed on your shoulders, go into some detail on the past challenges you’ve overcome. Your professional experience is what interviewers want to know about most, but it will not always be a perfect fit for their opening. It is your responsibility to explain your past work in a way that shows the universal skillsets beneath your professional endeavors. If something in your experience is unrelated to the new job, you might do better to avoid bringing it up. You only have so much space to make a good first impression, so don’t waste valuable words on experiences that will not be applicable. Find the values in your work experiences that will be most easily translated to the new job.
The core skill of a good employee is critical thinking. Companies are looking for individuals with the initiative to make smart decisions without prompting. Your cover letter is the first opportunity you have to show your ability to understand how to behave without being told. Identify the skills and insight the employer seeks, reflect briefly on the personal experiences that lead you to believe you can provide those skills, and express your intentions for joining their company. There are hundreds of ways to convince a future employer of your value, but it will require critical thinking to show why your specialized skills will be of great value no matter where they take you.