Cover Letters reloaded: How to Write them so you get to the Next Level

This is one of the best self-help article in my blog:  What makes a good cover letter that is helpful for me and the clients?  I often get cover letters that merely summarize what is obvious in the CV/resume.  When a cover letter is requested, it is not our aim to just give you more busy work.  It is an opportunity for you to give us some additional information that may not be in your CV.  Or it is a way to have you give the various recruiters that will be reviewing your information to get more info that is  targeted to the job ad or position description.  The best cover letters are those that address all the qualifications requirements or job specifications in the position description and shows the reviewer how you have that required experience. 

Here is some important advice for cover letters directed to International Development sector organizations:

  1. Take the time to write a targeted cover letter for each employer. This means customizing each cover letter you write, so it specifically relates your skills to the job you are applying for.
  2. State why you are writing, indicating your interest in the job and name the job you are applying for.
  3. A cover letter should complement, not duplicate, your resume.
  4. Identify your most relevant skills and experiences. Don't just duplicate your resume. Rather, include the skills that most match the job.
  5. This is most important:  Refer to the qualifications for the position and illustrate how your abilities relate.  I can't emphasis this point enough --- the best cover letters I have received listed the required qualifications requirements bullet by bullet and answered how the candidate met that requirement.  It is important that you address all required experience and not just those where you have the experience while leaving out those that you don't meet.  It is OK to say “I don't meet this requirement" and it will not necessarily leave you out.  It may endear you to the hiring agent for being transparent and honest about your capabilities.
  6. Emphasize your achievements throughout your letter without being too wordy.
  7. In closing, communicate your interest, motivation, and strengths.

And always, we ask the impossible: We ask that you try to do all the above and be as brief as possible and to the point.  But remember that if you stick to answering the bullet points that are in the qualifications requirements, that you will have a good cover letter.

There is no need to write volumes about what is in your CV.  Most recruiters don't have a lot of time to read every word of text that is in your cover letter and CV and we tend to scan the document to find the particular experience we are looking for.  The most experienced recruiters do this in less than 2 minutes.  Some of the clients that have given me recruitment contracts tell me their recruiters have 50 - 100 positions to fill at any one time --and often very few days to fill them.  I have the luxury to try to limit myself to no more than 8 or 9 recruitments at any one time.  That is why you get to communicate with or hear from me much more than you might with other recruiters working for the larger organizations in International Development.  They are not mean or rude in not answering your inquiries of phone calls, they are simply overworked.


I hope this has helped to clarify information you needed about Cover Letters.    

Warm regards,    Linda Aines,  Aines International   May 2018