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How To Write A Cover Letter For A Job

Posted: May 7, 2013

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An effective cover letter can help working women in India nail that perfect job! Tips on how to write a cover letter for a job.

You are all set to start the hunt for your dream job. Maybe you are planning to get back to work after a break or have recently switched careers. You have your career map all chalked out, and are raring to go. Your resume is also ready. But then, when you start applying for jobs, something bothers you. What will the gap on my resume look like to the prospective employer? How shall I explain why I am targeting a profile that is slightly different from what I used to do? 

Your resume will not help much with this, other than state the facts. So what do you do?

Here’s where a cover letter comes in handy. Working women in India can use cover letters to explain things that a resume cannot. A well-crafted cover letter can even give you an edge over other applicants.

But is a cover letter really necessary?

If you are posting your resume online or forwarding it to your contacts and trying your luck, a cover letter might not be essential. But when you are applying for a specific position or replying to an advertisement, sending a cover letter along with your resume can be of great help. A cover letter is generally not expected by many Indian employers, but that is no reason for you not to send one if it is going to make your case.

Not only does it provide a complete picture of your resume, and hence your candidature, but working women in India can also use it to address issues like gaps in the resume, a lay-off, relocation, a career change – anything that you feel needs a little more explanation than a resume can provide.

Another advantage of a cover letter is that it is more personal, and some of your personality can come through when it is written well.

How to write a cover letter for a job

Start the letter by mentioning the position you are applying for and how you heard about the opening.

The second part of the letter is where you explain why you think you are suitable for the job. Mention one or two achievements and a couple of soft skills that are particularly relevant to the position you are applying for. Ensure that you do not repeat phrases that you’ve used on your resume. If in doubt, just imagine that you’re talking about your best work to a friend, and you’ll get the idea.

At this point, address specific issues if any about the circumstances of your job application. Include additional relevant information that a resume cannot convey, clarify a point or specify terms.

End your letter quickly, with a short statement summarizing your application, a note of thanks and a request for an interview. Sign off.

How can working women in India use a cover letter to address common problems?

Working women in India frequently find themselves in the unenviable position of applying for a job under less-than-perfect circumstances. Here’s how you can get a cover letter to help you deal with troublesome issues.

1) Explaining the gaps on your resume: If you’re getting back to work after a break, don’t try to hide the gaps in your resume. Instead, explain it in the letter. It’ll be great if you can mention something that you’ve been busy with during this break – got a degree, done voluntary work, taken an online course – something which shows that your skills are current and you haven’t rusted. Of course, your resume will also contain that information, but a cover letter helps put it into perspective.

Also important is the language you use. Ensure that you don’t sound as if taking a break was something inevitable, or something you were forced to do. For example, saying “I chose to take a break” instead of “I had to take a break” makes a huge difference. Use strong, positive language.

2) To explain an unconventional career move: Many women choose to change careers for various reasons. Some want to spend more time with children at home. A few relocate because of their partners’ jobs, and then find that job openings in their profession are scarce in the new place. Others choose a lower-paying job or a position with lesser responsibilities than before, because that fits better into their life’s circumstances – all of which is perfectly acceptable in the industry. But a resume cannot speak for your seemingly strange choice. Use the cover letter to explain why you are doing this. And while you are at it, mention skills that you learnt at your previous career that will be assets in the new one. But be brief.

3) To specify work options: Some women prefer a part-time job or a work-from-home option, because it suits their circumstances. You could, of course, use the objective statement in your resume to specify what you need, but a cover letter is a better place to explain exactly what you are looking for.

A resume is still your most important document, and it needs to be polished until it shines, but a cover-letter that is crafted to your advantage can provide that edge to your application. So it is worth spending time on it to make it work for you.

*Photo credit: bizior.

Shruthi Rao is a writer and editor.

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