“Packaging” your job application with a cover letter

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Posted on 
November 1, 2021

You’re currently looking for a job, and you regularly ask yourself the following question: Is it really necessary to write a cover letter in 2021?

I can assure you that your question is valid. If we conducted an in-house survey, I’m convinced that many people would say that writing a cover letter is a waste of their time!

But cover letters deserve to be looked at from a different angle. First, I’d describe them as a good way for you to showcase the highlights of your career that pertain to the position you’re interested in.

More importantly, I’d like to point out that a cover letter gives you an opportunity to “package” your application! Imagine that you want to give someone a gift. You can give them the present without wrapping it, or you can opt for packaging that reflects your personality and is tailored to the person receiving the gift. You can choose packaging that’s store-bought, personalized, homemade, creative, plain or even recycled. In short, the possibilities are endless!

Now, what if we extended this analogy to your job application? It’s up to you to choose whether to send only your résumé to the recruiter or to “package” your application with your cover letter, which you’ll be sure to customize to represent you (as well as the recruiter and their organization).

But will recruiters actually read your cover letter? The statistic that struck me the most is that over 50% of recruiters will read your letter only if your résumé grabs their attention!

I love sharing this statistic with the people I help search for jobs, because many of them tell me that they always use the same résumé and only adapt their cover letter to the position they’re applying for. I tell them, “Be careful, that’s dangerous!” If the employer looks at your résumé first and doesn’t see how you qualify for the position, they probably won’t look at the more relevant details provided in your letter. In that case, you actually would have wasted your time writing a cover letter!

Okay, I’ll write a cover letter, but what should I put in it?

If you feel that your letter repeats what appears on your résumé, that’s a clue that your résumé isn’t suitable. Here’s my recipe for effectively creating your application:

  1. Analyze the job posting (requirements, tasks, skills, abilities, etc.)
  2. Adapt your résumé to the position
  3. Write and customize your cover letter

Do you have writer’s block? Your cover letter should be a sales pitch! Look at it as a letter of interest. What piqued your interest and motivated you to apply? In one page, your cover letter must provide the following information as it relates to your desired position:

  • Your knowledge: your education and training
  • Your know-how: the skills you can transfer to this new work environment
  • Your interpersonal skills: your qualities in relation to the position
  • Your knowledge of the organization and motivation to work there: what you like about the organization’s products, clientele, philosophy, mission, operations, etc. (Careful! I’m not talking about personal expectations, such as salary, schedule and insurance here. I say this because I’ve seen that type of information in a cover letter before!)

Be aware of the fact that your letter is also an opportunity for the recruiter to evaluate your language skills and technical abilities (for example, they may look at the page layout you used in Word and the way you saved your file).

3, 2, 1… write!

“What style do recruiters prefer? Do you have any sample letters that could help me?” These are some of the questions I regularly get from people who are eager to have the most efficient tools. I tell them that some recruiters will like their writing style, but others, maybe less so.

But the fact remains that you’ll certainly have a better chance of success if you write your cover letter yourself and it comes from your heart. Avoid trite form letters that can be easily found on the Internet. Even though you might be tempted to copy and paste, taking the time to customize your letter is worth it. And, in some cases, why not dare to add a touch of humour or customize your page layout, if it lends itself well to the position or organization in question?

Look at your cover letter as an opportunity to analyze your application for a position. Without realizing it, you’ll be starting to prepare for a potential interview, because the content of your letter will be very useful when you meet with the recruiters.

In short, it’s up to you to choose how you want to “package” your application before presenting it to recruiters.

On that note, happy writing!

Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Julie Lachance
Julie Lachance

Julie Lachance

Julie Lachance has been an employment counsellor at Carrefour jeunesse emploi (CJE) de l’Outaouais for over 20 years. She loves her work, as it allows her to meet people on various personal and professional journeys and help them with their job searches while sharing her passion for the French language.

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