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It is well-known that cover letter should demonstrate interest to the targeted company:

"simply put, no the point of a cover letter is to articulate why you will be valuable to my company and how. a generic one shows the opposite, if the content isn't specific to the job I have open for you by definition it is not good, waste of my time and will get put in the trash before I ever get to your actual resume"

°

"keep it as brief as possible and as specific as possible about why you really are interested in THIS company and THIS position rather than any of the other positions that you qualify for at other companies."

However, It turns to be difficult when the targeted job field is present in near every company (because all companies have computers), and you start to apply to positions without descriptions (this also include jobs without advertisement).
In my case, while most companies outsourced the process, most opportunities still comes from companies which didn't.

So, how to make cover letter company specific in that case (demonstrate interest in the company but not it's field), so they aren't a redacted copy of the resume?
(The honest answer is I have no particular interests in any companies, and the proof is that I applied to many other companies)

  • 1
    Sorry for the English, please rephrase/edit the question to make it clearer. – user2284570 Nov 22 '14 at 23:48
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Building on akton's post:

I disagree a bit with his point of

...the cover letter is something everyone emphasizes but no one reads.

Specifically, in my experience, I have read cover letters but I use them entirely differently. When dealing with anyone in a computer field I always find their writing skills to be poor at best. So when I look at a cover letter the main thing I am looking for is if you can clearly articulate an idea. I want to know that you not only have the skills to do the job but that you can also explain what you did clearly and in writing.

As far as making the cover letter company specific I feel that you are misinterpreting the quote you mentioned a bit. Remember your cover letter and resume should be company specific. akton mentions in his first point to mention things relevant to the job description like how you know Spanish or your related degrees. I am sure you notice though that those are likely things that should also be in your resume.

akton's second and third point are really important for your cover letter. You should be using this time to elaborate on things that people don't see in the 5 words you devoted to something on a resume. For that HR position for the wedding organizer your resume will likely mention that you have a wedding blog but here is where you can expand. Tell them about the community surrounding your blog. Explain what methods for engaging the community and explain it in a way that highlights your interactions with people so you can show why that item has helped you to gain skills you feel you can apply to HR.

On your point about applying to positions without descriptions, this is where hitting the proverbial pavement kicks in. I am going to go based on two scenarios.

Job came from an internal business board

So you have a friend who works at a company and on their internal boards they posted a position for Systems Administrator. That is all they said, after all everyone knows that they operate on a Linux environment. Everyone except your flaky friend. In this situation you will want to get the number for the company's HR department and give them a call. at some point you are going to hopefully be talking to them, don't be afraid to make that now.

Job was listed by a recruitment agency

So you found this job to be a web developer and when you looked at the pay you felt that you should look deeper reading the description you see it is for PHP (you know that) and that you also need some experience with a database. Which database... well it looks like this recruiter does not deal with positions like this too often and the company they are working with neglected to mention that they use mySQL. Every php developer uses mySQL after all right?

In this case you should contact the recruiter. Do not contact the actual company. They are likely using a recruiter for a reason and you should make that person your point of contact.

Overall if you ever have questions about a position just contact someone regarding it. if you cannot reach them then you may want to reconsider the position in the first place. After all, as most people will tell you, you should learn about the company you are applying to. If for some reason you cannot contact them then think about what that means. You know nothing about them. Are they honest? Are you going to be doing work that is objectionable to you?

There are other reasons that it could be hard to know what a company even does. If the company only does government work they may just not feel the need to host a website because they feel it is a waste of resources to keep one up to date. You should still learn about them though. Do they work with Planned Parenthood, which you may object to? Are they actually a Private Military Corporation? Never be afraid to try and find out more about a company or position by contacting them. The job should be a good fit for you and knowing what it entails is an important part of that.

  • Most of the time I reply to offers via web-forms (companies ten to advertise Job offers on their own Web-site) or I submit speculative application via dedicated web-forms too. Also, while most companies outsourced the process, most offers still comes from companies which didn't, so their are really few opportunities on recruitment agencies in my field, because companies choose contractors instead. – user2284570 Nov 26 '14 at 0:58
  • @user2284570 ok so would you say the following is true: You are a sub-contractor. Your clients may post a description but they do not understand what work they actually want done. for example a company wants a "Windows Certified Technician to help shore up staff in a company IT department." You later find out that the company "Had a massive server failure wanted someone who had experience in Disaster Recovery." I this situation you are going to be left in the dark no matter what. Company's sometimes cannot broadcast why they want someone even if it would help to find the right candidate. – KHeaney Nov 26 '14 at 14:47
  • You must work somewhere unusual - the majority of IT Professionals I've met have excellent communication skills... when they summon up the courage to communicate with other humans. – Jon Story Nov 27 '14 at 14:51
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Other's experiences may vary but I have found the cover letter is something everyone emphasizes but no one reads. Never as a hiring manager (in both large and small companies) have I received a cover letter with the CV. As a candidate, when referring to my cover letter, I have always been greeted with shrugs.

So, how to make cover letter company specific in that case, so they aren't a redacted copy of the resume?

I would:

  1. Address specific requirements in the job advertisement. For example, if the job advertisement wants someone that knows Spanish, is a certified account and can legally practice dentistry, mention your multiple degrees and Spanish language classes.
  2. Summarize your unique benefits and skills. For example, if you are being hired into HR in a firm that organizes weddings, mention your wedding dress blog (unlikely to be on your CV).
  3. Major achievements that might be relevant, particularly if you feel you are lacking in either of the above points. For example, mention if you have worked on a project that may be relevant, done an internship at a similar company or have some insights around their business. This will also help to differentiate you in a sea of similar cover letters.

As the OP quotes, your goal is to emphasize how the organization will benefit from you, not how you will benefit from working at the organization.

If this is for an internship, your list of achievements may be sparse and the job may have few defined requirements, so you will need to focus on differentiation or achievements (point 3). Your school, particularly academic counselors, may be able to help you, too.

  • Address specific requirements in the job advertisementAs I said in the question : what about the case there's no description? – user2284570 Nov 23 '14 at 10:01
  • @user2284570 As I said in the answer (point 3), focus on achievements or things that differentiate yourself. For example, mention if you have worked on a project that may be relevant, done an internship at a similar company or have some insights around their business. There is no "silver bullet" to getting an internship. if there was one, much smarter people than me would have written best-selling books on the subject. – akton Nov 23 '14 at 10:06
  • @user2284570 I have expanded point 3 to make it clearer. – akton Nov 23 '14 at 10:11
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You should, at this point research this company whom you are writing this cover letter for. Your Cover letter is a "Hey your company should hire me and this is why." formality. It has the same principles as assessments given, tell them what makes them happy enough to hire you without doubt. When you make a Cover Letter, it should never be a rehash of your resume, that's why you made a resume. You need to cover skills useful to your position. It should explain why you're the most useful person being interviewed. It's all about "what can I bring to your company and make the most out of what Corporate wants?" You need to look into three things before even considering writing your Cover letter.

  1. How does the company work, what is the structure? How do things work, what are executives looking for as a corporate image? Important facts to look into. Simply put: find out how the cogs work and how you fit perfectly into those cogs.

  2. How are your talents unique and or beneficial? How can you help the company? Are you a committed person willing to see things done their way? Your resume gives a look at where you been in life, your cover letter should explain how you got there. You shouldn't write in something that has nothing to do with what you have been doing. A company that has certain interests isn't going to to look at you if your off time interests have nothing to do with the company or its position.

  3. What made you shine in the past? How do those experiences pertain to the job you want? Your past jobs, at least ones similar to your current hopes of getting employed job have to match in some manner. Stating you were employee of the year in a fast food joint might not show you off in the proper setting much as telling people you temporarily substituted as lead project manager. Isolate which items give better light in which company you seek employment for.

And as always thank them at the end.

1
+50

When interviewing, there are a number of fairly distinct things that one looks for in candidates. These include relevant past experience, which is directly addressed by the resume/CV, as well as things like team work, technical aptitude, and ability to learn that are only hinted at by a resume. Most interviewers expect to pick up on those points during an in person interview.

In my experience, a cover letter is not usually required, especially if you are getting interviews without it; But if you are not, it could be an opening to express some things that may improve your chance of being brought in for an interview:

  • Industry experience or interest that isn't obvious from the resume.
  • Specific research on the company itself. ex: "I read this article on your company, and I found this interesting. I believe I can help with X", or "I got excited thinking about working on X".
  • Cultural fit with the company or team - Although this requires knowing what sort of cultural fit are looking for.

In general, my advice is to be careful not to spend too much time on cover letters and company specific pursuits. If you are spending more than 10 hours per week crafting cover letters by yourself, I think you would be much better served by instead focusing that time on networking. Go to industry events, meetups, conferences. Talk to people working in the company and in similar companies. Learn about things they are interested in, exchange contact info, and ask (casually may be best) about current openings. Ideally, this should be something that is fun for you even if it doesn't lead to a new position.

As an example of how personal contacts and networking can be critical to career success: A number of years ago, I started volunteering approximately 5-10 hours per week in the field I love. I didn't do this with the motivation of finding my next position, and it didn't immediately lead to that. In hindsight, not only has it been fun and rewarding, but contacts I met through volunteering have later been my favorite coworkers and managers in multiple new positions.

  • Actually, many web-forms require me a cover-letter in order to apply. – user2284570 Dec 2 '14 at 13:25
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A cover letter is your time to shine, please please don't ignore this golden opportunity.

CV= resume = all your past jobs.

Cover Letter = that letter you send in along with the CV.

I've looked at CVs, and in the case of programmers (and you appear to be one) they are a wall of stuff i don't want to read. Pygon1! J2EEEE! Roonix! Ciscows! None of which reads, it's just... words.

Some of them might be pertinent, but fun fact - a lot of people have your experience, whatever the language. The language is rarely used unless there are a lot of developers (think bank database systems for one of the "rare" examples).

But the cover letter... ahhhhhh, the cover letter. You get to explain who you are. Are you ambitious? A go-getter with natural leadership qualities looking for a place to grow with? Someone with excellent communication skills and a burning desire to produce great code?

The CV is your gateway into a technical (or any other) role. It is where people get to see what your past experience is, and whether your experience aligns with the skill set the job needs.

For tech roles, you don't really need to sell why you are passionate about investment banking, or formula one cars, or children's books - although that is certainly really helpful, and if you can do it (ie you know what industry the company is in), do so. For non-tech roles, selling yourself and the domain the company works in is more important, but...

More importantly is to stress you inter personal skills, and what makes you tick. I have a section on my CV that mentions my hobbies - just to make me more human. With a cover letter, you get to do that and more.

Don't look at the cover letter as a hindrance - it is an opportunity to paint a gorgeous, 3d technicolour picture of who you are, and the kind of leader you want to be. You will stand out 100 times more than all the other candidates, and everybody will want to interview you - who wouldn't?

  • Sure, I agree it would sound cow-boy to send a too technical CV (even when the It field isn't about programming). Anyway I don't think talking about hobbies would bring something useful for me (the job is the hoby). I can't also talk about past experiences. – user2284570 Nov 26 '14 at 1:05
  • @user2284570 you must have some hobbies - the gym, walking, watching 80s movies? that - whatever it is - goes in the CV, not the cover letter, and it goes at the very bottom, by the way. – bharal Nov 26 '14 at 1:11
  • @user2284570 also, it isn't that is sounds cow-boy, it is that it doesn't differentiate you. All the CVs they look at will have the requisite tech skills, and yours needs it too. The point of the cover letter is to stress your personal attributes. Are you a leader? Do you have good communication skills? are you a go-getter, or ambitious, or passionate about doing your best? – bharal Nov 26 '14 at 1:11
  • Yes, but there aren't really different from the job. Reference here for the cow-boy part. – user2284570 Nov 26 '14 at 1:12
  • @user2284570 for hobbies - then link to some evidence of this in your CV. For the cover letter, and I cannot stress this enough - if you don't have anything to go on ("i want to work in oil, or kids toys, or recycling") from the job spec, then stress your personal attributes. If you have info from the job spec, then stress both - that you want to work in the industry, and whatever special things make you you, and not, say, Fred. – bharal Nov 26 '14 at 1:14

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