Saturday, September 18, 2010

How To Write An Effective Cover Letter

Writing an effective cover letter that generates interview is not easy. There are lots of skills and strategies in it.

When I do the resume critiques for my readers, I notice something in common. I can’t say these are errors, but things need improvements.

Repeat Experiences
Many tend to re-write their experiences which were mostly captured in their resumes. A better strategy is to summarise your USP (unique selling point), in other words, how your best strength would add value to the role you are applying. You may also include capabilities that were not stated in your resume, such as how your people skill contributed to your success; how you achieve results through team work.

Over Selling
Though cover letter is a sales tool, but we still don’t want to make it too aggressive, such as ‘hey, I’m here, hire me.’ An appropriate tone is very important.

Too Long
One of the most classic piece of work came from an undergraduate – perfect English, appropriate tone, excellent layout and good experiences – however one FULL page long. Actually the letter was so well written and there was nothing I could correct. I was thinking to refund the fee I was paid.

Listen! Remember my 20-second cover letter suggestion? 20 seconds does not only mean that the hiring manager is too busy and has only 20 seconds to read your letter. It is when a person read, what they read in the first 20 seconds will seed into their brain more firmly. If the phone rang when the hiring manager was reading your letter, and when he finished his long phone call, he may simply lost interest in continue reading your long letter. Your well written letter may go to the ‘no’ tray.

Bottom line: If you can’t write all you want to write in 20 seconds, set half page as a maximum.

More Writing Tips
If you are proactively approaching a bank, please include ‘3 WHYs’ on your cover letter: Why IB; Why HSBC (or name of the bank you are approaching), Why you. Show your passion in banking and don’t let the employer think that you only want a good-pay job.

Back to the question of how to write an effective cover letter.

If you enjoy writing – DIY – read guidelines from this blog. If you want some more reference tools, the
Amazing Cover Letters is very popular among my readers. If you want a pair of professional eyes to go through your resume, hire my critique service. See details on the right hand side of this blog.

If you don’t enjoy writing – hire a former investment banker to write it for you.
DreamResume who specialized in financial services resume writing, offers 10% discount to my readers. Read this post.

Investment Banking Cover Letter