I am asked constantly about cover letters. Cover letters are something that are often overlooked, but always noticed. (Make sense?) There are a million takes on cover letters. A simple Google search will yield many results. You could write pages and pages, but hopefully this post will make it easy to digest.
More than anything, a cover letter lets the Recruiter or Hiring Manager know that you have done your research and should be taken seriously. As with any document, you want to make sure to use good grammar, spelling, punctuation, and, most of all, verbiage that is specific to the company and job you are applying for.
A Career Advisor friend of mine explained it best when he described a job description as such: A job posting is like the owner's manual for any particular job. It's the instruction or assembly sheet that comes in the box. It gives you all the details and tools you need in order to assemble, or in this case do the job. All we need to do now is follow the instructions and build a cover letter to match. If you are not able to do this, then the first question you have to ask yourself is whether of not this is the right job for you to pursue.
For example, if you are applying for a job as a Tools Programmer you don't want the letter to focus on your experience as an AI programmer. If the position calls for extensive use of Java, you don't want to focus on your love for lua, etc... (Still making sense?)
Subsequently, you want to do the same with the company you are applying to and provide a compelling reason for wanting to join the team. What about this particular company appeals to you? Are you familiar with the games they make, and do you play them? I once saw a student open his conversation with a SR Weapons Designer at Bungie by stating his dislike of first person shooters. May have well told him his baby was ugly. Also, generic statements should be avoided like the plague. Statements like, "I have always wanted to work in the game industry" does not make you a more qualified or desirable candidate. Don't feel like you have to write like Jonathan Franzen either. Avoid slang and shortcuts, but speak in your usual voice. Be sincere, but don't try and be someone you are not.
Use facts, knowledge, passion, and experience as your calling card, and follow this basic outline for your cover letter.
"Brevity is the essence of wit" – Shakespeare
In this case, it's the essence of a good cover letter. Be brief and concise. Three paragraphs is what's needed.
1 – Why you are writing? What prompted you to seek employment with this particular company and this particular job? Where did you hear about it or who referred you to the position?
2 – Why and how you are qualified for this particular role with this company? Remember, they tell you all you need to succeed in the job post. Are you able to articulate your knowledge and experience of these skills in the cover letter? If not, ask yourself if this is the right position to apply to. Focus on the must haves. You don't have to speak to each point, but you want to be able to demonstrate that you understand what a position like this entails.
3 – Thank you and a proactive follow up statement. Thank people for their time and consideration, and then show them you are serious by offering a specific follow up time. Allow a week for them to respond, then follow up by phone when possible. Be prepared with questions you want to ask and ready for anything you anticipate additionally that they will want to know. Don't get discouraged if you can't get a hold of the recruiter or hiring manager. Know that following up shows initiative. Staying connected and in touch is encouraged, however stalking is not. Always respect other people's work loads and time.
Lastly, do your research before doing anything. Knowledge is power. It shouldn't be too difficult to find who to address the letter to. A Linkedin search or a few phone calls throughout your network will provide most all the details you need to write a well informed and compelling letter to any company.
If you have any addition tips or comments I would love to hear them. Comment here or find me @RobCoble on Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org