By Goke Ilesanmi
Apart from packaging a great curriculum vitae (CV), you also need the reinforcement of a persuasive cover or application letter to boost your chances of being invited for a job interview. A cover letter, variedly called “letter of application”, “letter of introduction”, “transmittal letter” and “broadcast letter” is a letter that no wise job-seeker should send his or her CV without.
A cover letter is an important job search tool. Its purpose is to attract attention to you and prove your suitability for a job. The cover letter is also where you state why you are interested in the job or the company. Findings show that only few employers seriously consider a CV that is not accompanied by a cover letter; thus, a dynamically persuasive cover letter needs to be part of your job-search strategy.
It is a known fact that the world is now a global village occasioned by the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) explosion. The implication of this is that there is now increased competition in business, job-search, etc., as more awareness is created. Also, as opposed to what obtained in those days in Nigeria when jobs were waiting for applicants, applicants now go through a rigorous process to get jobs.
Implication of the digital age
The import of this is that the era of packaging a chronological CV or writing a passive and informative cover or application letter is gone and you now need the creativity of persuasive communication to write your letter and stand out from the competing crowd. Even business people need to write a persuasive proposal to stand out and win business.
If we now need persuasive communication in job search and business transactions, what then is persuasion? Persuasion can be variedly defined. At one level of definition, it is conceived as the process by which a communicator tries to influence the attitudes, values, belief system or action of his or her listener(s) or audience.
Simply put, it is about convincing people. It is noteworthy that the beginning of successful persuasion is to build trust and credibility so that you can be accorded attention by your audience or recipient(s). That is, you need to quickly include information about them to show you have knowledge of their operations.
As an applicant, for example, you need to quickly show some knowledge about the company you are applying to by including something like, “It is impressive that since you started operation in Nigeria on 15th May, 1990….”; “It is commendable that you made a profit after tax of N- million in your last financial year….”, etc.
Another thing you do in persuasion is to concentrate on issues that are important to your audience during presentations or recipients of your letters or proposals. For instance, focus on how you will contribute to the productivity and profitability of the organisation not on benefits you hope to get upon employment.
A cover letter is so important because a CV is useless to an employer if he or she does not know the kind of job you are seeking, especially if you do not have a (combined chronological) functional CV that shows the kind of job you like in the objective section. A persuasive cover letter tells the prospective employer the type of position you are seeking and how you are qualified for that position.
It highlights the aspects of your experience that are most useful to the prospective employer, and you can earn points for knowing what those aspects are. There is no disputing the fact that prospective employers receive a lot of CVs, especially when they advertise a (vacant) position. These employers are also very busy.
Often the person screening CVs skims through each for just a few seconds. Your cover letter can draw attention to the skills, talents and experience the prospective employer is looking for. Your letter can explain things that your CV cannot.
If you have large gaps in your employment history or you are re-entering the job market after a break or changing the focus of your career, a cover letter can explain these circumstances in a positive way.
Potency of a cover letter
A cover letter can serve the same function as the Objective part of your CV, and expatiate on it. Some applicants are reluctant to “limit” themselves by putting an Objective in their CV. It is better for a job-seeker to target the type of job being specifically looked for and you may be open to more than one option. You can have different CVs targeting different jobs.
You can simply have your template CV on the computer and just adapt it to fit the requirements of each job you are applying for. Note that your CV is not a record of your life history that is already fixed, so you can adapt it (CV) as you like.
A cover letter is a little window into your personality. A well-composed cover letter can suggest to a prospective employer that you are just the right type of dynamic person the company is looking for.
Cover letter contents
A typical cover letter contains address(es), salutation, etc.
Addresses: You will write two addresses. That is, your personal address and that of the recipient.
Salutation: Here, guard against the error that may manifest as a result of jumping into conclusion about the recipient’s sex based on the name. Try to confirm the sex of whoever you are asked to direct your letter to in the advert, especially if you are only given the designation. However, experts suggest that in the event of not being able to confirm the sex, or get the real name of the recipient, use Dear Sir/Madam.
If it is a female’s real name that is involved and you are not sure of the marital status, use Dear Ms. You can also use Dear Madam for the unknown female recipient. You will also include the heading or title, introduction, body containing paragraphs and conclusion.
To be continued
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GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant. Tel: 08056030424; 08055068773; 08187499425