Whether you are considering working overseas because you are finishing up your studies and are hoping to secure a full-time job to stay abroad, working between semesters, or you need to apply for an internship position to fulfil your program requirements, being able to write the perfect cover letter means the difference between your carefully crafted resume getting read versus ending up in the recycling bin.
This cannot be emphasised enough, you should never write a general cover letter. If your cover letter stays the same and you merely switch out the name of the company that you are applying to, sorry to say it, but you are headed for the dustbin. Every single job application requires tailor-made content specific to that company and positon.
For example, knowledge of the company and the position that you are applying to is key. You should use your first paragraph to explain why you want to work for this company and say something that you particularly admire about it. Employers want to know that you aren’t just applying to any open position, but have taken the time to figure out what the company does and have an informed reason as to why you might want to work there. Furthermore, you should mention the title of the position that you are applying for by name and why this particular role appeals to you.
Highlighting Strengths and Qualifications
Then you go about outlining in detail why you are perfect for this role, mentioning nearly every criterion that they list for their desired candidate. Be sure that you display how you fulfil these job requirements with specific cases from your previous work history. For example, do not just say “I displayed leadership in my last role” but explain “I was able to take on a leadership role in my last position when I worked on [insert name of project]. I was able to guide this project and my teammates through [insert specific examples].” Pointing to actual examples is necessary, otherwise your claim doesn’t hold water.
A cover letter should ideally be no more than three paragraphs. If you hand in a two page cover letter, the chances of your potential employer reading through it is about zero. Including too much information actually works against you, because instead of ensuring that the prospective employer reads through the limited but applicable and carefully selected information, if it’s longer than three short paragraphs, the employer will most likely not read any of it at all.
There is nothing that says hire me like including a signature footing at the bottom of your cover letter that says contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or something else completely ridiculous. If you are trying to present yourself as a professional, then take the time to invest in a professional email address. Email providers like Hotmail and Gmail or your school address are just not seen as professional anymore, and therefore you will not come across as professional either with one of these emails on your cover letter and CV. Take the time to set something up that you only use for work – http://www.1and1.co.uk/email-address – and be sure to implement a professional email signature that automatically attaches to your email correspondence.
It is also good to reinforce your online presence and network reach by including links to your personal website or online portfolio and your social accounts, like LinkedIn or Facebook. This allows the employer to look into you even further, while also allowing you to have full access to keep your information up to date, which a paper CV simply cannot do. Just remember to keep these sites professional and free of evidence of incriminating behaviour.
Since the requirements for cover letters and resumes differ from country to country, just be sure to always check into local customs and templates. For example, layout may change or you may need to include a photograph or your birth date. Follow the laws of the land to set yourself up for success in your job search.