How to Write a Winning Cover Letter

Cover letters or letters of application serve as the first introduction to your potential employer. They are basically your first impression. Whether the impression you make is lasting and catchy will greatly influence if you get called for an interview or not.
Many will tell you that cover letters are hard to write, the good news is that hard is not impossible.
Cover letters must be brief, yet compelling. In essence, they should be able to summarise all the key points you need to communicate without making it look like you are telling your biography. Yes they are hard to write but, if you utilise the principles of good storytelling and concise writing you can put together a letter that won’t get lost in the pile.

Answer the questions

Personally, whenever I see a job advert I am interested in, I ask myself the following questions:

  1. Do I possess the right skills and qualifications?
  2. Are there not many competitors for the same job opening? If yes, how do I stand out, be recognised and called for a face to face interview?

These are some of the questions that should guide you when writing your cover letter. Most importantly, you need to know how you will catch the eye of the employer and make a lasting impression.You can follow the following format when writing your letter:

  1. Salutation (the ‘hello’)
  2. Opening (the ‘grab’)
  3. Second paragraph (‘the hook’)
  4. Third paragraph (‘paragraph of knowledge’)
  5. Fourth paragraph (‘the close’)

There are several useful formats of cover letters on the internet and career guidance documents with pointers related to the above steps, but keeping them simple and short is a bonus to the applicant.

Top cover letter tips

Generally, here are a few tips to writing a winning cover letter:

  • Do a lot of research about the job opening
  • Always align your cover letter to your uniqueness and keep it simple and on one page only
  • Demonstrate what the employer wants to know and job advert specifics
  • Show, don’t tell by giving examples of your previous experiences, successes and portray challenges as learnings
  • Always have a positive attitude while writing a cover letter. This will boost your confidence
  • Consult with other people for feedback before you submit it
  • Never write the same letter twice or simply edit it for another job opening. Your letter will seem generic and you will not be able to convey your passion for the specific role.

If you are not successful with the first, second or even the third attempt at securing a job interview, do not give. Always remember that you get better at it by trying. If you are able to convey your ideas clearly in writing, when a role comes up which is particularly suited your passion and experience will be obvious to your future employer.
Check out our resources on:
Writing a cover letter
Preparing for an interview
Writing a winning CV
By Joshua Wakabi (DevCon Contributor)

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