After days of research and short-listing the jobs and internships you want to secure and after modifying your CV/Resume accordingly, you must wonder why you could not get the position you desired for?
Well CV is not enough for you to get that position. There is a next and a very important step to that which is attaching a cover letter and statement of purpose (SOP) with it. Whether your CV would be read by the organization depends upon the cover letter and SOP accompanying it. If you fail to make an impact by the cover letter and SOP, your CV would not be even read and be rejected.
With a CV full of achievements, nobody would want to risk the opportunity of getting that position in the organization just because of a dull cover letter and unorganized SOP.
In this article, we will find out how to write a powerful Cover Letter and Statement of Purpose that leaves a strong impact on the recruiter and convinces him to review your CV. The recruiters receive 20-30 applications per day. How is your application going to come in their notice? How are you going to convince him that you are a perfect candidate for the position? You need to work upon it to make it look different from others.
The cover letter and SOP are more or less same for everybody irrespective of whether they are job-hunting or seeking internships, whether they are students or graduates or experienced employees. The style and format are usually same for all groups of people. What matters is how well you represent your achievements and skills to attract attention towards your CL or SOP.
Difference between Cover Letter and Statement of Purpose
Many people do not know the exact difference between cover letter and SOP. They believe these are similar things and wonder why they have different names.
Well to clear your doubt, these two are very different from each other and both serve very important purposes. They play a big role in applying for jobs or internships.
A cover letter is like an elevator pitch wherein you get limited time to introduce yourself and sell yourself. It should mention your interest and knowledge about the organization. It should intrigue the reader and prompt him to review your CV or resume. The cover letter can give you an edge over other applicants, hence it should be upbeat and professional.
On the other hand, SOP is more like a short essay wherein you can portray yourself as a perfect fit for the program and become a promising candidate.
While you can send a SOP without attaching any additional materials, it is absolutely impossible to do the same thing with a cover letter. A cover letter always accompanies your CV or resume.
Before writing Cover Letter and SOP
The hardest part in case of writing any piece is getting started. Before you begin with writing your cover letter or SOP, you should make a list of few things for a better understanding. These are-
- Long term goals– You should be well aware of your long term goals. These goals will define your career and the academic path which you need to plan for that career. Also, your long term goals would help you as well as the recruiter to find out whether you are the right candidate for any particular job or position.
- What makes you unique– Uniqueness is different to everyone and therefore your unique traits can make your application attractive and different from others. Write down your particular achievement or experience or learning you might have. Do not forget to mention your natural personal characteristics that make you unique and an asset for the relevant position.
- How you overcome obstacle– Define your personal strengths that you utilize to overcome shortcomings and how will you use those strengths in the professional world.
- Influences in your life– Talk about things that influence you either personally or academically for the job or position.
- Interest about your field– Mention about the things of your field that interests you and gives you motivation. The tone should have enthusiasm.
- Academic learning– Mention about your academic learning, grades, research excellence, article writings, awards and honours etc. In case of law, highlight your moots, mock trials, internships, etc.
- Non-academic experience– Non-academic experience is equally important to mention as it balances your personality. Write about sports, any leadership quality, volunteer work, inspirational work, etc.
Now, once you have the list of these things with you, it can be used in your cover letter and SOP accordingly depending upon the requirements of the position you are applying for.
Also, before you start writing your cover letter and SOP, check out for any instructions given on the website of the organization regarding the font, font size, number of words, etc. You can also mail them and ask about the specifications of same. If there is no restriction then you should use Times New Roman with font size 12 and 1.5 line spacing. This is the most used and expected format in the professional world.
What is a Cover Letter?
The first challenge in securing a good internship or job in an organization is passing its cover letter and resumes screening. These days, more and more organizations are selecting candidates based on their cover letters in the job recruiting process. If you really want to secure that internship or job, focus extremely to tailor your cover letter right rather than preparing only a good CV/Resume.
It has been rightly said by David G. Jensen, founder of CareerTrax Inc and a speaker and writer on career issues, that-
“Let’s face it, cover letters are read and resumes are skimmed.”
As mentioned earlier, do not forget that cover letter is an elevator pitch and you have to sell yourself by way of this. The main aim of cover letter is to highlight the features of your personality that is not mentioned in the CV. Cover letters would be different for different jobs, hence do not send the same standard cover letter everywhere. Invest some time upon it to tailor it perfectly for the required job or position.
It has an opening paragraph, body and the closing paragraph. It need not be more than 3 paragraphs.
- If possible, identify and write the name of the person you are sending this cover letter to, generally HR, along with the name and address of the organization. You may go extra steps and find the information on LinkedIn. Do not use “to whomsoever it may concern”. This will reflect your sincere efforts and desire to get the position.
- Opening Paragraph- In the first paragraph, introduce yourself, academic achievements and qualifications and current position. Opening paragraph should catch the interest of the reader and make him want to keep reading further.
- In the body, describe your experience and skills to convince that you are the best candidate for the position. Match your past experience with the job requirements and mention how you can contribute to the growth of the company. Describe your professional expertise and accomplishments that are a relevant fit for the position. Politely describe how you are better than others by mentioning your awards and honours in the field.
- The closing paragraph of the cover letter should be optimistic and enthusiastic for getting the position. Be courteous by thanking the recruiter for his time. You can leave the closing remarks with statements like “hope to hear back from you” or “I would like to further discuss…”. You can also mention your total interest in the position by mentioning your availability to have an in person interview or whatever the requirements of the organization are. If you have any references, do mention them here in the closing paragraph.
Few other things that should be taken care of are-
- Do not repeat information that is already given in your CV/Resume.
- Include key words that are given in the job description of the organization. This would save you from rejection by organizations that specifically look for those keywords in the applications as they receive a dozen of applications per day.
- Show your interest and enthusiasm for the position.
- Frame and write your strengths very strategically so that your weaknesses do not get considered or become of little value to the organization. For this you may seek feedback from professionals or even your mentors.
What is a Statement of Purpose?
It is basically an essay, or say application essay. Before proceeding further, let us discuss what does a good SOP consists of. While writing the SOP, the following things shall be included-
1. 1st Paragraph
- Describe yourself briefly as a person by giving your background.
- Tell about your current academic qualifications, academic achievements, goals andaspirations.
2. 2nd Paragraph
Discuss the facilities and opportunities provided by the recruiter/organization you are applying for- After stating that you have goals and aspirations related to the program, appreciate the opportunity provided by the organization and explain your interest in it. State why you want to do this specific program by giving convincing reasons.
3. 3rd Paragraph
In this paragraph, focus on explaining why are you the right candidate for the program and how will you fit in their program. For this, describe your strengths, skills and abilities which would be helpful in the program. Describe any previous experiences and how they shaped you. You may include internships, moots, projects, research excellence, etc. Be sure to mention how your previous experience relates to the program. It will show that you have a clear understanding of the requirements of the program and you are confident that you will fit into it.
4. 4th Paragraph (Closing Paragraph)
In this last paragraph, describe your future plans and long-term goals briefly. It will display your long-term vision and sincerity in the respective field.
All these pointers must be included in the SOP which would be written in an essay format. While mentioning these things, make sure that whatever you write is related to the program description. Anything else would be irrelevant and therefore do a research about the position you are applying for.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the SOP, apart from reflecting who you are as a candidate, also reflects your writing abilities. The recruiter at a glance can whether accept or reject your application depending upon the writing style of your SOP. Therefore, it is very important to check for the following things-
- There should be no spelling mistakes or grammatical mistakes.
- The piece of the writing should be strong and clear. Try to keep it concise.
- Avoid the use of repetitive language.
- As it is a kind of essay, the language should be between formal and informal. Do notuse overly informal language.
- The tone of the SOP should be confident and informative.
This is going to be a long essay so take your time and put your best writing skills at work covering all the important aspects of a SOP.
The SOP shall not be more than one and half page. Recruiters read 15-20 applications per day so be economical with your writing and keep it concise. Also, more than one page or one and half page will leave an impression that you do not have the clarity in your purpose and you lack focus.
Do not forget to give a final proofreading to your documents. You may want to edit the final writing by cutting out the clutter and keep it concise. You should be able to deliver your message with just the right blend of clarity and confidence. Try to avoid irrelevant information or even your achievements that do not suit the job description of the organization. You can seek constructive feedback from your mentors, friends, family or even professionals. Lastly, do not send the same cover letter and SOP everywhere. Invest some time upon researching about the organization and modify your cover letter and SOP accordingly. It would definitely be worth it.All the best!