What should be included in a cover letter?
Now this is a very important area to work on, especially for us women. Almost every client of mine is struggling with figuring out what should be included in a cover letter and how to write a good cover letter. What should be included in a cover letter is only a part of the issue. For many of my clients how to phrase a cover letter is a challenge as well. So we'll look at both aspects in this article.
Most women with whom I worked so far feel uncomfortable saying good things about themselves and their career or they feel they don’t know how to phrase it so that it doesn’t sound conceited.
I noticed that many women therefore simply repeat the different stations of their resume in the cover letter and hide behind formal language in order to appear professional.
I certainly had this problem myself when I was first applying for jobs. I found it really difficult to write about myself. Needless to say that my first applications were not incredibly successful. Only after I had hired several employees as a team manager and had reviewed countless applications in the process, I realized that there are really huge differences in how people present themselves and what is appealing. I realized that my applications so far had been, well, boring.
Time to stick out!
The cover letter is your unique chance to explain to the employer why you’re applying for the job, why you’re interested in the position and the company and why you think you are the best person for the job. This last bit is crucial: You are the best person for the job! You need to believe this. If you’re not convinced of this, how do you want to convince someone else? If your cover letter sounds like you’re not 100% convinced of your competence and qualification for this job, why would any employer consider you? A well written cover letter is the best way to give you a career lift.
First things first
If you want the employer to really sense why you want to join them, make sure to answer the following question before getting started. What should be included in the cover letter are basically the answers to what they will want to know about you:
Why do you want to work for this company?
Do some research on the company’s website and point out in the cover letter what you like about them. I know that everybody is saying this but everybody does so with good reason. I as an employer want to find the best candidate for the position and the best person for the team and the company. I need to feel that you’re truly interested in working with me.
What excites you about this position?
Do you really enjoy a certain task or responsibility required by this position? Then this is something that should be included in a cover letter. We women tend to think that we always need to be super professional in our careers but I can assure you that it is good to show a little bit of passion. The employer doesn’t look only for a specialist, but also for a person who is a good fit for the company, who will fit well in the team and who will stay with the company for a while. So tell them what excites you about the job.
Facts, facts, facts…
The cover letter is of course also the place to talk about your qualification for the job. This part should be obivous when thinking about what should be included in your cover letter. Start with preparing the following information.
Which tasks are you currently handling which fit the described position?
Tell them not only how you apply your skills on a daily basis and which results you achieved in this area but also what you enjoy about these tasks. You really like talking to customers? You really like negotiating? You really like teaching? Make sure the reader can feel that.
A bit of heart and authenticity should be included in a cover letter.
Which of your soft skills match the job description?
As I already mentioned before, the employer is looking for a person who fits the team and the company, not only for a professional. They want to get to know you. The cover letter is your only opportunity to give them a glimpse of who you are and spark their desire to invite you to the job interview.
Use this opportunity well. Give them a peek behind the curtain and show them the amazing woman you are. This of course includes giving examples on how you applied the required soft skills for the position, no just enumerating the soft skills. You’re good at team work? You’re a good communicator? You’re a strategic thinker? You’re able to anticipate the needs of others? You’re able to prioritise requests from colleagues, regardless of how some people have more insistent personalities than others, but still do it in a way that doesn’t make future work relationships difficult? Give concrete examples which show how you excel at these soft skills.
Did you achieve special awards or qualifications?
Please, please, please make sure to point them out in your cover letter. They are an important part of what should be included in your cover letter. The cover letter isn’t the place to be shy or modest, this is the place to shine. It’s not good enough to list them on your resume somewhere.
One of my clients had been awarded scholarships and participation in several highly prestigious university projects thanks to her outstanding grades. And guess what, she mentioned none of them in her resume because she didn’t want to brag. After I added them in her cover letter, describing them in a confident but not bragging way, she got invited to the interview the following day and got the job within the week. So ladies, let’s be proud of our achievements in our careers!
Show them the real you
If you ask what should be included in a cover letter, I can tell you that your personality needs to shine through. I spoke to more than twenty recruiters at a trade show recently and they all confirmed that it is crucial for them that a candidate is authentic. So be authentic, be yourself!
What does that mean for your cover letter?
It doesn’t mean that you should write colloquially or be too informal. It means that you should convey what really interests and excites you. Don’t hide behind formalities and false professionalism. Put some heart in the letter.
This is the point that most of my clients struggle with. We women are often hiding behind a professional cover because what we hear as career advice is all about how we have to be more professional than men, how we have to prove our value, how we have to suit up in order to fit in with the gang, ...
I’ve been there and done that myself. I was so focused on being super professional that I actually ended up being perceived as cold, distant and not interested in connecting with my coworkers. Honestly, I’m none of these things. But I somehow was so focused on being professional and doing a great job at all times that the real me somehow got lost on the way.
I hope my tips helped you and you now have a clearer picture for what should be included in a cover letter. If you need help to get started, check out my article How to start a cover letter and make sure to download my free checklist for preparing your application.