Cover (Job application) letter

A cover letter is a document written by an applicant to prove their intention and qualifications for a specific job position. This document gives meaning to your skills and experiences written in your resume. It is also a measure of your communication and writing skills, and so deserves adequate attention. The format and the expectations of a cover letter can vary depending on the job position or the reputation of the applicant. This resource provides general guidelines to help write an effective cover letter.

Before you write

  • Gather all the information about the job position and requirements. Read extensively about the company and why they need to hire a new person. Understand the goals, the culture, and the direction of the company. Having this information shows your strong interest in the job position, and it will help you not only write a convincing cover letter but also show interest and confidence during an interview, should you be offered one.  
  • Assess your skills and the job requirements to make sure you are equipped to meet the employer’s needs. Identify any special experiences and skills you have that could benefit the company. To do this, assume you are already hired, and ask yourself what you could do at the job that would help the company. Are they expanding in the area of your expertise? Have you worked for their major competitors for several years? Do you speak an extra language that could help?   
  • Know the position, the name, and the title of the specific person to whom you will be addressing the cover letter.
  • Read your resume again so you can avoid repeating everything written in it.
  • Organize information about your skills and experiences that are most relevant to the job you are applying to.

The content

Introduction paragraph

In the introductory paragraph:

  • Mention who you are professionally or academically (if you are applying for your first job).
    Example: I am a certified environmental engineer with twenty year of experience, or I am newly graduated doctor in chemistry from Makerere University.
  • Establisth the connection. Say how you learned about the job opening.
    Example: I met your Human Resources officer at the Annual Science and Technology meeting, and she told me that your company is looking to hire a software engineer.
  • Brifely, mention why you believe you are qualified for the job. In one or two sentences, highlight your most relevant experiences or skills, and match them to the job requirements.
    Example: I read further on your website and noticed that you need an employer with experience in medical devices. I have been designing and developing medical devices at MedicinePlus Incorporation for the past three years, and I believe that my skills in software development and programming have equipped me to fill your vacant position.    

Body paragraphs

The body part comprises one or two paragraphs in which you illustrate your understanding of the job position and requirements, your qualifying skills, as well as potential benefits you would bring to the company. Use specific examples; mention names, numbers, and places to specify your skills and defend your merit of the job. The paragraphs in this part should be brief and precise; stick to the topic and choose your most qualifying skills. Consider the following tips as your write the body part of your job application letter:

  • Show that you understand the job requirements as well as the goals of the company. Mention how you learned about the job requirements and the goals of the company.
    Example: Through a phone conversation with your recruiting officer, I learned that your company is targeting customers from the French-speaking communities in West Africa.
  • Before you started writing, you gathered and organized all your skills and experiences, and you have summarized your most selling skills in the introduction. Now, choose additional skills and experiences that qualify you most for the job, and which you have mentioned in your resume.
    Example: I completed my bachelor’s studies in French, and I worked for two years in Paris developing softwares in French. Throughout my career, I have participated in the development of five French software applications, which are currently used in fifty different countries by more than ten companies including (provide specific examples here). I believe that my professional proficiency in French language will help ease communication between your company and its customers in West Africa.  
  • If you have further significant skills and experiences, consider writing an additional body paragraph following the same guidelines as above. Keep the paragraphs brief; most employers will not have time to read lengthy and redundant sentences.

Conclusion

In the concluding paragraph of your cover letter:

  • Mention that you want an interview if the job application requires one.
    Example: Dear Mrs. Onyango, I have provided you with information to illustrate my qualification for this position in your company. If you see fit, I would like to meet in person to discuss the details on the job and its requirements.
  • Provide your preferred contact means, and mention that you will contact the company to follow up on the application.
    Example: I will call your recruiting office later today, but if you have any questions regarding my resume or this letter, please feel free to contact me via phone (write your phone number accurately) or email (write your email accurately).
  • Write a professional concluding statement.
    Example: I sincerely thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.  

Additional helpful tips

Remember to sign your letter with both your signature and your name.

Provide information about the enclosed documents and further resources after your signature. Mention, for instance, that you have included your resume in your application.

To make your letter easy to read, write in brief, simple but professional language. Avoid cliches and hyperbolic statements.

Every attribute you write about yourself should be backed with specific examples, and appear in your resume. Keep your examples detailed but brief.

For more information about cover letters and how to write them, please see the sources cited below. If you have information and resources about cover letters that we did not include in this document, please consider sharing the information and resources with us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., so we can share it with everybody. You can also sign in or sign up at afrisnet.org and share the information as a public post or a blog on your profile page.

Sources Consulted:

https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/CoverLetters.html

https://careers.usc.edu/students/write-a-resume/

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/723/03/