Cover Letter: How to Write One That Stands Out

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Have you ever experienced the sensation of your heart dropping when you realized you had to write a cover letter for a job application?

Even though the whole process of getting a job in Tanzania is challenging, writing a cover letter is a uniquely daunting task. In Tanzania, many of us struggle to express ourselves in English, and so the thought of having to write several eloquent paragraphs that prove why we are qualified for a job can be nerve-wracking.

But what most of us don’t realize is that it’s important to send a cover letter even if the job application doesn’t ask for one.

Why do the extra work?

Your cover letter is your opportunity to sell yourself to the employer. It is not a repetition of your CV or resume, but instead it tells the story of your career, experiences, and skills. It sets you apart from the many other people who are applying for the same position.

There is not much we can do to change the high competition in the job market in Tanzania, but we can increase our chances of getting a job by delivering a great application. That’s why it’s important to spend as much time working on your cover letter, as you do on your CV.

As Tanzania’s biggest resource for employers and job seekers, over the years we have learned many tips that will help you write a cover letter potential employers will notice. Here are 10 of them.

1. Research:

Just like your CV, the first step of writing your cover letter is to do some research. Find out more about the company and the specific job you want.

Look at the company’s website, Twitter feeds, and employee profiles on LinkedIn. Find out what the company values, and its possible challenges and how your role would help address those. This will help you tailor your cover letter to show how you can address these problems and/or how you share the company’s values.

For instance, if you are applying for a job at a recruitment agency you can research to find out that one of the major challenges with recruiting in Tanzania, is the availability of qualified candidates. In your cover letter, you can talk about how your experience in your past job/s has prepared you to address this issue, or even suggest possible solutions.

Remember, the cover letter is about giving a fuller picture of who you are, and not just listing credentials that are already in your resume.

2. Address the letter to a specific person:

While the job description may not have the name of the supervisor, HR officer or managing director, you should make the effort to find out who they are and address the letter to them rather than the impersonal ‘To Whom It May Concern’.

How do you find out the name?

  •  Do a company search on LinkedIn and look at the listed employers on the search results.
  • Call the company, ask for the HR officer or office manager and find out from them, who you should address.

3. Your opening statement should be powerful:

Don’t waste space and your potential employers time by starting your letter like this; “My name is _____ and I’m applying for the ______ position advertised on ZoomTanzania.”

Instead start with a powerful opening statement:

“As a marketing evangelist, with over 3 years of experience in the fast-paced and demanding marketing department at _______, I’m confident that I’m the candidate you are looking for.”

4. Be focused:

While you may have the desire to talk about all the job experiences you’ve ever had in hopes of impressing your reader. It’s better to focus on specific experiences and how they have prepared you for this job.

This will help you paint a picture of who you are to your employer, rather than feed them with too much information that confuses them.

5. It’s not about you, it’s about your audience:

Focus on what you can do for them, and not what they can do for you.

So instead of writing something like, “Working for your company will give me the opportunity to learn new skills” write “ Given the opportunity to work for your company, I will use my _____ skills to effectively help you grow.”

6. Be descriptive:

Get deeper and illustrate how you got the qualities you say you have.

 

So instead of simply saying, “I’m a team leader”. Be specific and talk about the experience that made you a team leader, “In my role at ______ company, I was in charge of a team of 3 people in the project with ________.”

7. Emphasize your potential:

Often times we don’t have all the qualifications that a job position requires, but that does not stop us from believing that we can perform well if given the chance.

Instead of apologizing for experiences you don’t have, emphasize on your potential to learn and become an asset for the company.

8. One size doesn’t fit all:

Unless positions are identical, customize cover letters for different job positions. Not all companies value the same thing, or have the same challenges – even if they are in the same industry.

9. Proofread:

Have a second set of eyes help you check for grammar and spelling mistakes.

10. Keep it short and simple:

Your cover letter should be between 3 to 4 paragraphs long, and not longer than one page. Employers and recruiters go through dozens of applications for a single position, so it’s important to communicate all the vital information you want them to know clear and coherently. Remember, don’t mention every job you’ve ever had, instead, focus on the experiences that have prepared you for this particular position.

Take it seriously

While there are many aspects of the job application process that are out of our control, we have power over the quality of our application. If you follow these tips and invest enough time on creating a great cover letter, surely you will greately improve your chances of landing an interview!

But, before you begin writing your cover letter:

Find a job you want!

Iman Lipumba
A digital storyteller, experienced in creating content that improves website visibility on search engines, enhances the user experience, and nurtures brand loyalty. With a background in the social sciences, an expert in researching complex ideas, and communicating them in engaging language to multiple audiences.