Basic Steps on How to Write an Excellent Cover Letter

Basic Steps on How to Write an Excellent Cover Letter

When applying for a job, almost everybody is aware of the relevance of a good Curriculum Vitae (CV), so they try their possible best and sometimes go beyond their reach to submit a very good and detailed CV. However, only a handful of them are aware of the importance of including a cover letter with the CV. A cover letter is a one page document that you send with your CV/resume when applying for a job. If you wish to submit a job application in an English-speaking country, it is of utmost importance you include this document as it is used to introduce yourself to the company, give reasons to why you are the best candidate for job, fill in places your CV cannot describe and explain other aspects of your CV; thus, it increases your chances of getting employed.
Basic Steps on How to Write an Excellent Cover Letter
With a sampled cover letter, this article discusses the basic steps to be followed when writing a cover letter. A cover letter takes the following format: the header, salutation, body and closing.

1. The Header
The header comprises the addresses of the letter: the writer's address (which is your address) and the recipient's address (i.e. the person or company you are writing to). The writer's address (which carries the date of the letter) is written at the top right of the letter if the writer does not have a letterhead whereas the recipient's address is a step below the writer's address but at the left side of your paper.

Your address (that is the writer's address) consists of the following:

Your Name (when using a letter heading).
Your Address
Your City, State, ZIP Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email

The recipient's address comprises:

The recipient's name or position,
Company's Name,
City, State, ZIP Code.

2. Salutation
The salutation is the greeting, which is usually "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam" when the sex of the recipient is known to the writer. However, the writer uses "Dear Sir/Madam" or "Dear" plus the position of the recipient, for example: "Dear Recruiting Officer" when he/she does not know the sex of the recipient.

3. Body
It will interest you to know that, unlike other formal letters, a cover letter does not have a title. So, after the salutation, you go straight to the body of the letter. The body is the lengthiest part of the cover letter, comprising different paragraphs.

Here are a few things to note when developing the body of your cover letter:

i. Specify which position you are applying for
This is the first thing to do, and it is done in the introductory paragraph of the body. It is very possible that the company has several job vacancies; therefore, you should specify at the beginning of your letter the position you are applying for. And this can be written in different ways.
  • I am writing to you with reference to your advertisement on the Sun Newspaper for the position of an Accountant in your company.
  • I am writing in connection with the job advertisement for the post of a Sales Manager.
  • I would like to be considered for the position of a Cashier in your company.
ii. Brevity
Brevity is a key feature of any application letter. As a result, you have to be brief and concise when developing the body of your cover letter. Attaching a lengthy cover letter does not make you fit for the job. It would rather make the person reading the letter get bored before even getting to the end of it. This means only one thing – your letter might be thrown into the waste bin or get tossed in the reject pile, and consequently jeopardize your chances of getting hired. To avoid this, ensure that your cover letter (as a whole) does not exceed one page.

iii. Highlight your skills
Skills entail those qualities that you believe make you the ideal candidate for the job and the previous experiences you've had that are relevant to the position you are applying for.
  • With more than 5 years experience in academic research and 5 years of teaching English as a second language, I am cocksure I can provide excellent guidance to your students.
Perhaps you don't have any experience yet, you can state it this way:
  • After carefully reading about the position on the Sun Newspaper and all that it entails, I am confident I am the qualified candidate for the placement and would appreciate a job interview.
iv. Avoid hypes
In Pidgin English one will say, "no hype yourself too much." In as much as you are trying to portray yourself as the suitable candidate for the position, it is very important you avoid exaggerated claims like according yourself with eulogies that will be too hard to believe.

v. Mind your grammar
This is very important as no employer would want to employ an "educated illiterate". The truth is that poor grammar leaves a bad impression. There is no harm in consulting your dictionary or contacting someone who is proficient in the English to help out when in doubt.

Also, avoid the use of contracted forms of words when writing your cover letter or any application letter. Don't use "don't" instead of "do not" or "I'm" instead of "I am" etc.

vi. Each paragraph should explain an idea
Do not, for any reason, explain more than a thought in a paragraph. The paragraph that states the position you are applying for should not explain your skills.

vii. Endeavour to state that you await a response
This is usually done in the concluding paragraph of the body of the cover letter. Don't end your letter without stating that you await their response, whether it is negative or positive.
  • I look/I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.
  • I will be very grateful if my request is granted even as I anticipate a positive response.
4 Closing
The closing is the final part of the cover letter. You can use "Yours faithfully," or "Yours sincerely," but it depends on your knowledge of the person. You use Yours faithfully, (if you do not know the name of the recipient) or Yours sincerely, (if you already know the name of the recipient or receiver).

Please note that there is always a comma after the Yours faithfully or Yours sincerely, followed by your signature, then your full name. 

View a sample of a cover letter HERE