The last few blogs geared you up to build an impactful resume with the right format. In this edition, we get into complementary documents that go with your resume - Cover Letters & Reference Sheets, with which your application will be well-rounded! After all, your resume needs its buddies ;)
Providing the recruiter with your resume alone is like skipping the "Details" section on your online profile in terms of background context! Though it’s not mandatory for many companies, including a cover letter provides the recruiter with the right context, your network, and reasons to join the firm, helping your chances of getting an interview.
How can I create an effective cover letter?
A cover letter is a great way to provide your hiring manager with insights on your additional information as to why you are a great match for the open position and the efforts you have taken to get to know the position (e.g. networked with their employees). It is a fluent way of communicating information usually shared in the interview, ahead of time. Thoughts about:
- Why are you interested in the position? Have you taken efforts to learn more about the role?
- How does the company fit into your current career path?
- Any company values that resonate with you, your views and ideals?
- What specific values have you learnt and how does that add to the company?
How is a cover letter different from a resume?
There are some key differences between a cover letter and your resume. The resume states facts - about you, your achievements, details of positions and qualifications held, experience timeline etc. A cover letter, on the other hand, helps communicate information that is more subjective in nature with actions you may have taken to go above and beyond for this specific role. It’s an opportunity to explain why you are a fit for the role at hand. The information in the cover letter goes hand in hand with facts from your resume, in a way the documents complement each other and strengthen your brand.
Note that while the information on both corroborates each other, it does not mean duplication. While we strongly encourage you to weave a consistent story across your resume & cover letter, it does not reflect well to simply restate accomplishments, qualifications or any other facts from your resume verbatim, one is not a backup or substitute for another. The best practice is to create tailored content for the document you are creating. Keep in mind, resumes are the primary document that the recruiter will absolutely expect to see, followed by the cover letter.
Cover Letter Format (Spacing is key):
Pre-Cover letter Homework: Please do your due diligence and research about the company, the recruiter/hiring manager you are writing to and the role to help you draft a customized, relatable letter!
Para 1: Briefly introduce yourself and explain the purpose of this letter. Make it interesting & unique so it will capture their attention! Showcase your awareness of the reader's company & mention any touchpoints that have led you to this application
Para 2 (and 3 if needed): Briefly describe the top reasons you’d be uniquely qualified and fit for the role. Consider your relatability to the company’s culture etc.
Para 4: What’s next? Based on what you are looking for next, request for a catch-up, a call, pre-screening or an interview. Appreciate their time and consideration and express your excitement in moving forward.
Sending it over an email: There are several ways in which a cover letter can be shared- In person (a long lost method), send it over a post, including it in an online application form, attached to your email, include it in your email body? While sharing physical copies in-person or over a post is no longer practiced, it ultimately depends on several aspects. When it comes down to it, I recommend adding it in the body of the email. It cuts down on the need for the recruiter to download the attachment to open & read another document, especially given the flood of applicants they usually sift through. You can attach the cover letter mirroring the email body in pdf format onto the email for their convenience (some companies may need to save a copy of all your documents offline). If you do this, please convey the reasoning to keep them informed.
However, they may request you to attach the cover letter. In this case, do not include the same content from the letter on the body of the email. Keep the email short, with a few lines including who you are, the position you have applied for, attachments enclosed (i.e. your resume, cover letter etc.) and a line conveying your excitement and appreciation for their time (taken to review your email & related contents).
Further crucial points:
- Ultimately, the hiring company's specifications trump all best practices. If they specifically request you to attach your Cover Letter, attach it. If they instruct you to share only a resume, do so accordingly. If a cover letter is optional, it’s always best to include one to err on the side of caution, covering all your basis.
- To address your cover letter: Make a valiant effort to search for the most relevant recruiter/hiring manager to include. If you cannot, your last resort can be 'Dear Hiring Manager'. Avoid generic phrases like 'Dear sir' or 'to whom it may concern'.
- The cover letter is not about 'me', 'me', 'me'. It's about skills that you bring to the table that can add to the company and make an impact to the organization. While you can mention what you may want to gain out of your employment experience, don’t make it your focus.
- Keep it to less than a standard A4 page.
Adhere to the above and you are golden. Now moving on to the other supporting document: Letter of references.
References go without saying, are an important part of your application. But including them as a part of your resume eats up valuable space and lengthens the resume. Moreover, it disrespects the implied privacy of the referrer as you invariably share your resume with several companies, and have it accessible to anyone on job portals. For this and many other reasons as mentioned in our previous blogs, it is best to share a dedicated document listing your references.
Key best practices:
- Number of referees: A best practice is to have one or two referees for each stage of your professional life- be it college, a project (fests, dissertations), team (cabinet, editorial, camp) or professional experience (one or two for each role held). Keep it to 1 page
- Type of Referees: List relevant people who have worked closely with you who can genuinely vouch for your skills. Avoid extremely high-level contacts (included just for their title) and personal contacts (uncle or parents). Remember, quantity does not trump quality.
- Permission: Request your referees for permission to include them and discuss your job search, resume & skills with your prospective referees in advance. This is to ensure they are comfortable with you disclosing their contact details as well as endorsing you.
- Carry a few copies of the list to your interviews for good measure and provide it if asked for during the interview process.
Reference Sheet format: Include basic details of your potential referees on a sheet of A4 -
Your Name (Bigger Font)
Your Address, Phone No. E Mail ID
References (Bigger font/Bold)
Contact 1, Title of Contact 1
Company where Contact 1 works now
Relationship with Contact 1 e.g. Manager, Peer, Customer, Supplier etc.
Notes: e.g. Best way (phone/email etc.) and time (after 6pm etc.) to reach them.
… and so on for a few more contacts!
With this blog, we come to the end of the resume series. Congrats on getting through! You have armed yourself with information and best practices on resumes & their buddies!! Stay tuned for our next set of blogs on practical use cases of Microsoft tools and business-related computing to make your life easy. In the meanwhile:
Leverage this blog and build your cover letter & references sheet! Feel like procrastinating? Snap back & just do it by knowing that you can truly set yourself apart from the rest with a well-crafted cover letter and genuine references. Share the completed sheets with us at email@example.com to have it evaluated and get additional suggestions. And now, take a breather, because you’re indeed prepared with the complete package to score an interview!
Still stuck at the resume? Not to worry! Please visit www.corporatereadytest.com/resume and get your complete resume scanned, all for a nominal price!
“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” - Albert Einstein
Manish N Gaba
(Pic Courtesy – Unsplash)
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