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5 Cover Letter Writing Tips Every UWI Graduate Should Know

Dear UWI Graduate,

Republic Bank gets about 1,000* job applications a month, so we have a good idea as to why some cover letters succeed.

The ones that don’t succeed get filed away — if you’re lucky. But if you don’t want corporate execs shooting free throws with your crumpled résumé, follow these five tips for writing awesome cover letters:

1. Get the Salutation Right

“Dear Sir/Madam” is not the best way to start your letter, because it can make you seem lazy.

You should always try to get your potential boss’s or interviewer’s name and address your cover letter directly to them.

As a last resort, address your letter to the company’s HR representative or personnel manager.

2. Be Professional — It’s Not A Personal Ad

“Voluptuous Female Seeks Rich Indian Man For Marriage”

OK, we’re exaggerating. Something that outrageous hasn’t yet shown up in a job application to the bank, but some cover letters can come off like personal ads.

It’s best to avoid unnecessary details about yourself. For a job application, you don’t want to seem pompous.

The only thing that matters is whether you can do the job.

In the second and third paragraphs of your cover letter, you should summarise your professional qualifications. Include training or specific accomplishments that qualify you for the position. For example:

“As communications officer for the Faculty of Humanities and Education from 2009-2012, I spearheaded the Blue Teddy Bear project that helped to raise awareness of child abuse in the Caribbean, through a community workshop and flash mobs at Trincity Mall and the Brian Lara Promenade.”

3. Show, Don’t Tell

Just because you said you’re a “well-rounded and hard-working team player” doesn’t mean your future employers will take your word for it.

Don’t tell them you’re hard-working; show them. Here’s how:

“I’m accustomed to pulling all-nighters to get the job done. I did it for a thesis presentation when a group member was suddenly hospitalised.”

See the difference? In that line, you showed that you’re both hard-working and team-oriented, minus the neon lights. Use examples from your work history or from projects you contributed to on campus.

4. Research The Company

Conducting solid research before the first interview is a must. Research the company’s operations, products and culture, and search for any recent news, good or bad.

Did they get some bad publicity over a failed product launch not so long ago?

This is an excellent chance to say something about how your stint as a library assistant helped you to develop excellent skills in dealing with people, which could be a customer service asset to the company as it rebuilds its image.

Companies are looking for people with fresh ideas who can add value to their products and operations, people who take time to get to know the business.

5. Read It Over — Now Read It Again

Apply these tips for cover letter awesomeness, but before you click the “send” button, check your application for grammar and spelling errors.

Depending on the job, a single error may set off an alarm and affect your chances of getting a call.

Use the spell-check on your computer. But you’re not done yet: Have someone with excellent language skills read it over.

Then read it again. And again. And…OK, you get the point.

For every 10 job applications we get at Republic, want to know how many impress us? Good, I’ll tell you that in an upcoming post.

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