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What is important to include on a cover letter?

Your cover letter is often your first interview with a company, the first chance for a hiring agent to get to know you. A good resume cover letter can help you make a good impression and get an interview. A weak cover letter might cause your resume to be placed in the reject pile.Many of our clients have asked, “What do I put in my cover letter?” And nearly all of our clients have needed assistance with organizing the content of their letters. Below, we will address both of these issues. If you come seeking our help with your resume and cover letter, great. However, the brief guide below should get you started on writing a successful cover letter.Cover Letter Content and OrganizationParagraph One: Introduce yourself and state your intentions. This 1 to 2-sentence paragraph tells the reviewer who you are and why you are submitting your cover letter and resume. For companies with multiple job openings, this paragraph also tells the reviewer which pile to put your resume in. Your name is at the bottom of the letter in the signature line, so you don’t need to repeat it here. Instead, describe the type of person you are.Example: As an experienced sales and marketing professional, I am interested in the position of regional sales manager with the XYZ Company.Paragraph Two: Summarize your qualifications for the position. Focus on your abilities, not your specific skills. (Abilities are personal characteristics; skills are specific behaviors you can perform. You can learn skills, if needed, but abilities tell what kind of person you are.) The description of your abilities lets the reviewer know if you will be able to learn the skills and how you will perform in a professional environment.However, be careful of using “buzz words” without illustration. You can briefly address your professional history in this paragraph as a way to illustrate your abilities. 3 to 4 sentences should be sufficient.Example: I am a creative, yet focused, professional with strong managerial skills. My knowledge of system integration, coupled with my leadership abilities, has enabled me to identify and enact efficiencies in even the most complicated organizational environments. For example, in my most recent position, I created new quality control processes and instructed inter-departmental teams on their use. Although I am a “company man,” I am also an individual thinker, seeking new opportunities for the company to reach target markets and surpass financial goals.Paragraph Three: In this paragraph, you answer this question: “Why are you applying for this position?” In answering this question, you address two issues. First, describe how this position fits your abilities and interests. In a sense, you are saying that this position is appropriate for who you are now. Second, describe how this position will help you advance your career goals. This tells the reviewer that you have a strong interest in the position and will do what you can to succeed and grow. Again, 3 to 4 sentences will be enough.Example: The leadership and marketing perspective required for a regional sales manager align with my abilities and experiences. I am enthusiastic about expanding my broad knowledge of the market and diverse populations, two aspects of this position I find particularly exciting. Furthermore, this position will assist me to advance into progressively higher responsibilities, and it will provide the satisfaction I earn by succeeding in new and challenging responsibilities.Paragraph Four: The final paragraph is short, 1 – 2 sentences only. In this paragraph, you bring your resume cover letter to a close by thanking the reviewer and by calling for action. You say “thank you” because that is polite and professional. (After all, the person has read this far and deserves your gratitude.) The action step is essential. Here you answer the question “What’s next?” Will you call the person? Do you want the person to contact you? Do you want to set up an interview? State the action as the final sentence.Example: Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss how I can support the mission of the XYZ Company.Word Choice to Express Your IdeasThe content of your cover letter is important, but so is how you express your ideas. The words you use affect how the personnel manager interprets the content. Based on our work helping clients prepare resumes, we have created a list of 7 words your resume needs, words that will create a favorable impression of you.1. SuccessfullyCompanies want to hire winners. Use this word to describe your accomplishments in a prior responsibility.Example: I successfully negotiated a new contract for services.2. LeadershipCompanies want to hire leaders. Use this word to describe your involvement with task and project teams.Example: Under my leadership, the customer service unit managed all client records.3. TeamCompanies want to hire people who can cooperate with others to accomplish company goals. Use this word to describe your involvement with colleagues.Example: Our team was responsible for answering customers’ questions about products.4. CreatedCompanies want to hire innovators. Use this word to describe new ideas and processes you developed.Example: I created a checklist to track daily service tasks.5. Expanded/Increased (the verb, not the adjective)Companies want to hire people that will help them grow. Use this word to describe your participation in company growth.Example: During this time, the company expanded the product line to include 2 new models.6. Support (the verb, not the noun)Companies want to hire people who will assist the management team. Use this word to describe your relationship with your former supervisors.Example: I supported the division director by compiling financial data.7. WillCompanies want to hire people who are confident about their ability to deliver what they promise. Use this word to describe what you will do if hired.Example: I will solve customer software and hardware problems.Some of these words may not apply to your resume or cover letter. However, if you think carefully about your prior experiences, you will find that you can use most of them. Using these words does not guarantee that you will get the job you want, but they will help you make a good impression.Final ThoughtsEffective writing and the correct use of writing mechanics are very important. Once you have developed the draft of your resume and cover letter, you will need to edit it carefully.

How can one write the perfect cover letter, step by step?

I have provided a 7 step guide for writing a compelling cover letter based on my own experiences of writing effective cover letters, helping others with their cover letters and assisting my manager with screening applications. I have included examples of how each step is helpful. This approach is particularly helpful to technical specialists e.g. engineers and geologists who may need some quick tips on marketing and effective communication. I have used the same approach of benefits, evidence, features in writing successful bids to clients to tender for projects.I recognise that writing a compelling cover letter takes a lot of time and critical thinking, so if you are restricted with time, pick your top job vacancies to apply for rather than resorting to a bulk mailout of a generic cover letter.Research – get this right and it will provide a strong foundation1. Research your networks. See who in your network knows about the company or hiring manager. See if you can get a hold of company mission statement, values statement etc. The last job I applied for I discovered that a number of people I knew also knew the hiring manager. I dug for as much information about him and his team as I could. I found out that he was technically very competent, an excellent manager, cared about his team members, very personable, keen on building a strong team. I also managed to get a hold of a company values and personnel competencies manual which outlined company values and how it relates to expectations of behavior and competencies for the different levels in the organisation i.e. graduate level, professional level, senior, level, principal level. This was very useful in terms of responding to the selection criteria with an understanding of the expectations of a specific level, in my case it was for a principal role. So I knew exactly what the organisation expected of this role in terms of the various selection criteria. I used some of the keywords in my cover letter.2. Research every agency and job site. If the position is being advertised through an agency, research various job sites and see if the same position is being advertised by various agencies. Contact all agencies and ask for more information about the position and company. The more background information you can get the better. As an example, a friend of mine was interested in a position offered by one agency through one job site. In doing further online research he discovered that the same position was advertised by multiple agencies through various job sites. Yet, each description provided a new piece of information about the position and each conversation with every contact person provided even more information. Be diligent. It pays off.3. Always call the contact person. See if you can get more information about the company and position that was not in the job description or advertisement. If you are lucky enough to get a hold of the hiring manager you may be able to get a glimpse into their personality, what they are focused on, and what their personal KPIs might be. When I called the hiring manager, who was the contact person for the job advertisement, I was able to discover more about the expectations for the vacant position. I later found out, after starting employment, that the hiring manager was restricted with what words and terminology he could use in the job description due to the bureaucratic rules of the organisation and that although he wanted to provide more specific job requirements and expectations he was not able to. Always call the contact person and try to get more information.Analyse and Plan – this is where all the hard thinking happens4. Identify keywords in the job description, conversation with the hiring contact person, company mission and values and anything else you got your hand on. Use these keywords.5. Identify benefits. This is the key above all! This is where technical specialists often get it wrong. But those who are marketing-minded would be more familiar with this approach. It is natural to put the focus on yourself, but actually you need to place the focus on the organisation and show off your understanding of their needs. This is where you get a chance to connect to the organisation and make them feel that you are a perfect fit.Identify how the organisation would benefit from hiring you. This should relate to the key reason for the existence of this specific position in the company. Do not confuse benefits with evidence or features. You know an idea is a benefit because it can be categorised into one of three items: (saves) time, (saves) money (or increase profits), (adds) confidence (emotions).As an example. I was helping a geologist, to apply for a principal geologist position. In a conversation with a contact person from a job agency he discovered that the company was looking for a geologist to assist in due diligence of potential investments in coal tenements. From this conversation he identified that the key concern of the company was in identifying quality coal tenements to invest in and filtering out the poor quality tenements. As an experienced geologist he would be able to identify whether the exploration company that was undertaking the exploration work was providing reliable data to the investing company or whether they were manipulating the interpretation of data to make it seem that a coal tenement was better than it actually was.In writing the cover letter the benefits that had to be highlighted up front was: as an experienced geologist he could provide geological confidence in the quality of the coal tenement which would support investment decisions and he could save money in terms of identifying poor quality tenements.6. Explain the evidence in your ability to provide these benefits. So in the example of this geologist, he gave a succinct summary of his 7 years of experience in coal exploration and specifically in data handling and interpretation as well as quality control of an exploration team of 90 people and 11 drill rigs. He could identify when other geologists were not thorough or precise in the processes, discrepancies in interpretation or if there were any quality control issues.Write your cover letter – build out from the dot points you developed in steps 4, 5 & 6.7. Your cover letter structure should be as follows (I am assuming you already have knowledge of creating a letter format):- Introduce yourself.- Highlight upfront the benefits to the organisation for hiring you.- Explain your evidence for being able to provide these benefits. Remember to refer to your references e.g. “ As my references can attest, I am reliable and communicative.”- Refer to your CV for more detailed information.- Close off e.g. I look forward to hearing from you.- Sign off.Make sure to keep your cover letter to one page.Check and recheck your contact details.All the best!

What are the ways to apply for winter/summer intern at IIM-A?

I interned at IIM Ahmedabad for a period of two months this summer. The procedure to apply for interning at IIMs or any other reputed institute is pretty simple.You need to write a personalized cover letter to the professor under whom you want to intern.You have to send your CV and Cover Letter to the professor at least 2 months prior to your internship.I mailed quite a many professors and it finally worked out with one. I contacted my professor very early (around 4 months before the actual internship). I won’t deny that I had to do a lot of work in order to get that internship. The professor made me read papers, recommended a few books on behavioral economics (I’m a Computer Science Undergrad.) and took a lot of telephonic interviews before he finally called me for the internship.Since professors at IIMs are mostly very busy and keep traveling, I had a very awesome time over there. The work load was mostly negligible. I got to experience the IIM culture. I learnt a lot and also made a case study. The professor was very helpful and guided me throughout the internship. I made a few friends during the internship with whom I used to play with in the sports complex.Interning at IIM definitely adds a value to your CV. I even got a decent stipend.Thank you for reading! :)

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