A cover letter is a one-page document attached to the front of your résumé that is your means of self-introduction to a prospective employer. It is your chance to capture the attention of the reader and demonstrate the qualities that set you apart from other applicants. Here Emma Charnock, Regional Director of Hays Accountancy & Finance in Hong Kong, provides her advice for preparing a cover letter.
A cover letter begins with an introduction and identification of the position, for example the reference number. You then move onto the main body of the letter, which covers your qualifications, experience and reasons for applying, before finishing with a short conclusion.
When responding to a position advertised, the best way to determine what you should include in the main body of your cover letter is to identify your skills, experience and attributes that match what the employer wants. Look for keywords in the advertisement and address the main elements. For example the advertisement might say: “The position requires an outgoing person with demonstrated capacity to work in a team”. The keywords here are, “outgoing”, “demonstrated” and “teamwork”. Matching your skills, experience and competencies to each keyword in one or two sentences shows you meet the essential criteria and increases your chances of an interview. Use strong verbs that demonstrate action and accomplishments, such as “organise” or “supervise”.
For example, a Financial Controller advertisement may state something like: “Candidates are required to have demonstrated skills in overseeing the financial activities of the group including treasury, financial and accounting matters”. To address this in your cover letter, you could write: “I have worked in my current role as financial controller for the last six years and have been responsible for all financial aspects of the business including management and financial reporting, regulatory reporting, budgeting and forecasting, internal audit and control, treasury and due diligence”.
If you are approaching a prospective employer directly, the cover letter should highlight your unique selling points – or in other words, the qualities that set you apart. These should complement your résumé, where they will be detailed further, so in your letter simply summarise in a few paragraphs your best skills and experience.
For example, you could open with something like “I have three years’ varied management reporting experience”, and then your résumé could go on to list further the specific tasks performed that relate to these, such as monthly flash profit and loss, variance analysis with commentary and review and analysis of profitability across different business streams.
Once you’ve written your cover letter, don’t forget to proofread it. Make sure it is clear, concise and addressed to the correct person. Essentially it should draw attention to you and away from others, but not by misspelling the recipient’s name! Proofing is important and you may even benefit from someone else double-checking it for you. Finally, don’t forget to include your address, phone number and email.
In summary, keep your cover letter succinct, tailor each letter to suit the job and proofread very carefully!
Source: Hays Hong Kong