The cover letter is –coupled with the CV– one of the first-contacting and first-impression papers through which an applicant has to get in touch with an IT recruiter. It’s important because it’s the candidate’s show case. It’s delicate because it’s the candidate-company’s first contact. It’s the first step an applicant will take, so it rather be a good strong perfect step, not a messy, clumsy and teenager-step. I tried to gather some of the best practices which a candidate should follow to make his application intrigued:
Structure: on the top right of the page, should be your name and you personal address only, no email no phone, nothing else (because all of them are already on your CV). Only the address is kept just to respect the traditional definition of “letter”. On the top left: the date. Then comes the full name of the company followed by its address (somewhere under the date). To mention the name of your contact is something obvious and trivial. Generic, to-all, general letters are sent directly in the trash. Remember: mention only the last name of the person to whom you are addressing.
Layout: a cover letter should contain 3 visible, well-separated, main parts: an introduction, a corps (that could be divided to 3 sub-parts as well) and the wrapping conclusion. At the end, your full name (on the left or on the right, it doesn’t matter).
The introduction: first thing’s first, a typical good introduction usually begins with how you knew the company and how you found the job position (the company website, through an alumni, during a career related discussion…). Then you should mention why this position is interesting and exciting for you, and what makes you motivated to work for this the company as well. Here comes the part where you should mention some key-details about the company. Numbers are preferred, because they are concrete and easily-memorable. This is a typical good stream of a cover letter introduction.
The corps: the main part of the cover letter. I personally prefer the 3-part-divided corps because it keeps a clear logical information stream. The first part is useful for a brief introduction of the applicant (newly graduated, final year, current position…) and what he/she is planning to do in the near future (acquire more experience, get better in a specific field…). The second part should contain a brief overview of your technical background (what type of school you are from, main points of strength, and the aim and caracteristics of the eventual most important internships fulfilled. No details, this paragraph should be an appetizer to push the recruiter and trigger its curiosity to go to the CV to see what you are talking about. The last part should be dedicated to your extra-curricular activities, it’s the best place where to mention what positions you have held and what soft-skills you learnt.
The conclusion: the wrapping part, you should mention something related to getting an opportunity to introduce yourself better through an interview and discus more how you will be useful for the company. Then invite the recruiter to know more about you through taking a look at your CV. Finally, don’t forget to mention that you are available through any contact data mentioned in the CV and thank the recruiter for his/her time and consideration.
As a conclusion, don’t fall into some fatal typical mistakes that applicants usually make, like: mentioning your own name, evaluating yourself (I am good at… I have excellent knowledge about…) that is the job of the recruiter not yours. Or also mentioning too much details about your education or your internships and activities. That would be boring an that will make your CV obvious, predictable and not worth to see. Remember: a cover letter should push the recruiter to check the CV, not the other way around.