The cover letter is your first chance to get the attention of your employer. If your cover letter is poorly written, there is little chance that your resume will even be seen, especially when there are so many applications that they need to go through.
So how do you write a cover letter that gets the message across and will give you the best chance to get an interview? You can start by learning the five W’s of writing a great cover letter.
Know the Who
The first W is Who (or Whom). When you write a cover letter, it’s important to know whom you should be addressing, as opposed to a vague “Dear sir/madam” or “To whom it may concern.” Sure, there are others who wouldn’t mind this as it’s a general practice, but any time an employer reads a cover letter specifically addressed to him or her, the effort will definitely be appreciated and will give you an edge over your competition.
Specify the What
The second W is What. There are times when companies have multiple openings available, this is why you want to specify what position you’re apply for in the cover letter. If you don’t do this, the person who’s reading your cover letter may deem you as unqualified because he may think that you’re applying for a different position or that you don’t even know what you’re applying for.
Where is it located?
The third W is Where. If you’re applying for a position that is in a different location, make sure you include your plan of action in the cover letter. Spare the employer’s time from having to ask you what your plan would be, when you can simply write it down. Putting the Where in your cover letter shows that your career has an identifiable direction. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, how are you ever going to get there?
When can you start?
The fourth W is when. Specifying how soon you can start makes it easier for an employer to make an informed decision about your candidacy, and can also give you ample time to get things worked out. A simple “immediately” is not enough; you want to give them a specific number of days, weeks, or months. Describe your situation to justify the length of time you need before you can start.
Tell the reason Why
The final W is Why. Probably the most important part of your cover letter is telling why you are interested and what makes you the best person for the job. Use the cover letter to explain what makes you different from the others and how you can bring unique skills and ideas to the company.
The cover letter is only one avenue you can use to impress employers, and you shouldn’t rely on it as a golden ticket to your next job. Don’t forget that you also need to have a strong resume to get you an interview. After that, you still need to prepare yourself for the interview. Still, a strong cover letter with the five W’s bound to make you a real contender in the job market.