Why is a cover letter important?

By the SMU Social Media Team

A well-written cover letter helps hiring managers to learn more about you as a person. An unconventional one will help you to stand out. However, many job-seekers tend to pay less attention to their cover letters than to their resumes.

Although this varies from one organisation to another, the cover letter is often the first thing that a hiring manager sees. It reflects who you are, creates the first impression, and helps hiring managers decide if they want to continue perusing your resume and get to know you better.

For instance, perhaps you’re applying for a job that requires someone with prior working experience. A cover letter that demonstrates enthusiasm and positive personality traits is more likely to secure you a chance for a face-to-face interview, as opposed to a candidate who may have the right credentials but whose application appears conventional or even dull. This is because hiring managers look out for a candidate who will fit well into the company’s culture, rather than one who only looks good on paper.

The process of writing a cover letter also helps you think through your decision to apply for a particular role, such that when you’re shortlisted for an interview, you’ll be well-prepared to answer questions like “why do you think you’re suited for this role?”

Here are our suggested ingredients for a good cover letter.

1. Show how much you know

Before applying for the job role, you should already have done your research into the company: what it does, what its values are, and so on. Demonstrate your knowledge by referencing the key points in your cover letter.

2. Demonstrate how you’re a good fit for the role

Take point 1 a step further by sharing what you think about the organisation’s goals and how your career goals are aligned with it.

3. Help them get to know you, too

Share a little bit about yourself. (We’re not suggesting that you give a recap of your childhood accomplishments, though!) By highlighting the project management and/or leadership skills that you acquired through the course of your university life, you will provide the hiring manager with more useful information with which to decide whether or not to shortlist your application.

Before you walk away with these three simple tips to improve your cover letter, here are some don’ts to take note of. You should NEVER:

1. Use a generic template that you Googled off the internet

2. Use the same cover letter for every job application

3. Skip writing a cover letter

If in doubt, you can always approach your career counsellor or any of the Career Champions at our Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre for guidance. You’ll have opportunities to practice writing cover letters during FTW 202: Résumé and Cover Letter writing, a compulsory Finishing Touch workshop.

Now go forth and write some excellent cover letters. And may the odds be ever in your favour!