Career advice

Top tips on how to write a professional cover letter

by Christina Hubmann - August 25th, 2014

A cover letter is often the first written contact with a potential employer. There is no doubt that the words on this sheet of paper should be selected with caution.

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The first impression in written words

“Hello, my name is Julia and I’m applying for the job you’re offering. Why should you give me a chance? Because I went to school and studied and have done three internships so far – as you can see on my resume.”

Honestly? This is boring. Every headhunter is able to read documents about you, including your resume. So keep in mind that your cover letter template shouldn’t just be a summary of your curriculum vitae. You found a job on one of the careers websites or someone sent you a link to a job posting on LinkedIn? Now you’re keen to apply for this position? Go for it. But make sure that you haver the best cover letter available.

Just a sheet of paper?

Even if it seems to be annoying at the beginning to sit down and articulate clearly why you are the best for a given job, you shouldn’t neglect the importance of cover letter. Poor cover letter! That isn’t a way to handle it. In contrast: It is a chance to say everything you can’t say in your resume – which quite often can be a lot. It covers your profile, it forms the foundation of your and it is the start of the whole application process.

A professional cover letter offers the chance to make a case. There you can tell your future employer a story – your own story. You have enough room to express yourself in your own words, to analyze yourself as a perfect performer and to alert people to have a look at you. A good cover letter might be a duty to write but it comes along with many advantages as well.

Select your words with caution

A cover letter is often the first written contact with a potential employer. There is no doubt that the words on this sheet of paper should be selected with caution. It makes your application well-rounded. Its purpose is to interpret the data-oriented resume and to accommodate a personal touch. As you know from personal networking, the first impression is the most important one. Take your time to create an impression that will be kept positively in your employer’s mind.

The letter typically accompanies each resume you send out. It may make the difference between obtaining a job interview and having your application ignored. To take advantage of its full potential, follow these steps.

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Cover letters: types and examples

There are three general types of cover letters. The application letter which responds to a known job opening, the speculative letter which inquires about possible job opportunities and the networking letter which requests information and assistance in your job search. The basics of every letter are contact information, a salutation, the body of the cover letter, an appropriate closing statement and a signature.

Design your cover letter specifically for your purpose and the chosen position. Be careful: Especially if you’re applying for more than one job, don’t just change the recipient’s name. Instead of using the one-size-fits-all letter think about which focus you’ll set first. Yes, to be honest, brainstorming can be time-consuming but it’s necessary to build up relations between you and the organization.

What should be included?

When thinking about how to write a cover letter for a job application, try to follow these three basic steps: Why you are writing and which role you are applying for, what you have to offer the employer and how you will follow-up.

  • First paragraph
    • Reasons for writing and which position you are applying for
    • Why do you want to work at Allianz Group? Find clues here and name the ones which are important to you
    • Keep it short, with the objective of inspiring the reader
  • Second paragraph
    • Pick out major achievements and provide the story to back these up
    • Describe, how your skills and experience will be a good match for the job
    • Support your introduction
  • Third paragraph
    • Wrap things up with the final sentence
    • Repeat the job title and organization to further position yourself as the right person for the job in the reader’s mind
    • Thank the reader, mention your attachments, tell the employer you’re looking forward to an interview

Allianz-An image of hands with glasses

Effective cover letters identify your most relevant skills or experiences. When you write down all these characteristics think about the employer’s self-interests. They are relevant and should express the strong commonalities between you and the organization or position. They should convey a high level of interest and knowledge about the job as well. Therefore, make sure your letter explains how your skills relate to the criteria listed in the job posting.

Include recognition keywords like analyzed, programmed, designed, created, built, taught and trained in your cover letter to increase your chances of getting selected for an interview – but try to stay yourself.

The idea of being someone special

Remember, all hard facts are listed in your resume so they aren’t necessary at this point. Here you can concentrate on other specifics or showcase your accomplishments: Think about the issue which makes you unique. Besides the skills you gained in your student jobs and theoretical knowledge you learned at university – what else can you do or which talents should be mentioned to highlight you as a well-qualified employee? What specific responsibilities have you had so far? For orientation as to what can be important have a look at your job references.

Apart from seeing the cover letter template as a platform for selling your personal brand, it can also be used for explanations: Here you can formulate, in well-chosen words, why you changed your course of studies or why you went on a round-the-world trip after high school. The only requirement for this: you find good reasons for these decisions. Most pieces of your life’s path can be articulated in a positive and relevant style for your career.

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Why select you? The beginning of a new career path

Do you remember the possibility to apply via mobile system at Allianz Group? Sometimes recruiters set up a new job offering and mark it as a “Apply Directly on your Mobile Device”. This means, you can apply directly with naming one relevant job experience as well as your education and contact number. In this case you don’t need to write a cover letter or describe your motivation. However, this is brand new and a major exception in the world of applications.

In all other cases you start with a cover letter template and end with a last check: Did you write the name of the employer or headhunter correctly? Did you close your letter in a professional manner? Have you been able to name-drop any people in this organization who may know you? Did you integrate results oriented language? Did someone else proofread it so there are no typos or misunderstandings in it? Will you still mention the same info if you get invited to a job interview? And be honest: Would you employ yourself with this cover letter?

A professional cover letter makes sure your curriculum vitae gets noticed. This is the place to convince the recruiter that you are the best match for this job. He or she doesn’t have the time to read every resume, every piece of sample work and every certification. Take the chance and take the space to tell your own story in your own words. Get the people to know you.

                                                                                                                     written by Christina Hubmann

Christina Hubmann

Global Communications

Christina Hubmann works in the Global Communications team of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, the Allianz centre of expertise for global business insurance and large corporate and specialty risks. She has a journalism background.

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