While your CV is supposed to reflect your past work and academic experience, a cover letter aims at expressing your motivation. It is thus crucial that it be targeted to a precise job listing. Usually, you should write one cover letter for each application – although we will see later that you do not have to start from scratch either every time you apply.
The cover letter is thus a complement to your resume. Therefore, you should not repeat what is already written in your CV: A CV is a description of what you did, and your covering letter should be an analysis of your skills. Always bear in mind that employers receive both your CV and letter of motivation: you should thus avoid using this precious space to write something twice! Most of the time, recruiters first have a look at the resume before reading the cover letter so you should consider that you can only hint at your work experiences without dwelling on them in your letters.
In this article we are going to give you a step-by-step approach to help you apply for jobs and increase your chances to get an interview and improve your career in Sri Lanka.
Why do you need to write a covering letter in English?
More and more international companies are hiring in Sri Lanka, as well as Sri Lankan companies that have an international focus. Since the international language for business is English, showing that you can master this language will be a strong asset – and writing a covering letter in English is the best way to do so.
Contrary to resumes, you need to write more complex sentences in cover letters and recruiters will be sensitive to your style. This will be especially important if you apply for positions in which you will need to speak or write a lot in English, and your cover letter will have to be grammatically perfect and reflect your personal writing style. That is why, if you want to have your cover letter reviewed by a native English speaker, you should ask them not to change the style of your letter. Being honest is crucial when writing a motivation letter, and there is no point having a cover letter in the style of Shakespeare if you only know a few basic words of English. Employers will eventually realize you lied and you will be sure not to be hired. But it does not mean you should not have your cover letter checked for spelling and grammar!
A few tips before you start writing
As for the resume, it is very important you stay focused for a few hours if you want to write a relevant covering letter. Here are a few pieces of advice to do that:
- Go to a quiet room in which you know you are not going to be disturbed for a few hours
- Turn off facebook and your cell phone.
- If you know that you will need a break at some point, you should plan it in advance: for instance, say: “I will have a 15 minutes break at 4PM” – and stick to it.
- Use a good English dictionary
- Have you CV next to you while writing your cover letter and always refer to it. If you do not have one, you should check our Ultimate guide to writing a perfect CV and start from there.
- Do you remember everything you wrote to draft your CV? I hope that you kept it, since you will need it to write your cover letter too. You will more precisely need the list of everything that you did and your personal keywords. If needed, go check the Ultimate Guide to writing a perfect CV to refresh your memory.
First step: understanding a job offer
Before you write anything about yourself, you really need to understand what the company is looking for. Your cover letter needs to be tailored to the employer’s needs, so having a clear idea of what they are is crucial. To do so, read the job offer several times and make a list – in your own words – of everything they are expecting from a candidate. Make sure you understand every specificity of the offer and its technical terms.
You should then draw a second column and in front of each requirement, write your related strengths – with examples. There is no use saying “I am a great team member” if you cannot provide recruiters with specific examples that prove it. Please note that you do not need to fill all requirements. Companies usually describe in their job offer an ideal candidate that actually does not exist. You should be able to fill most of their criteria but if you do not have experience in some that are not crucial to the job, you should definitely apply.
Go to the company’s website
Now, you will have to spend some time on the company’s website and try to find out relevant information about the company. You can usually find that kind of information in the “about” section of their website. What are their values? Do they have a slogan? How old is the company? How many employees work there? In how many countries? What is their tone? Is it friendly, professional, expert-like? Try to write down your impressions, a few figures and names.
Once you have done that, you can try to find out information about people who work there: e.g. the CEO and the manager of your unit. Do you know the name of the person you should send your resume to? Then you should also try to find as much information as possible about them. Try to find their LinkedIn profile or their facebook profile. But be careful, be discreet – do not add them on facebook – and do not forget that recruiters can do the same to you so make sure you have a “clean” facebook profile.
Use your keywords to get the structure of your covering letter
With all of this ready, you should now come up with 3-4 keywords that are your main strengths for this job, using the information from your CV, the job offer and the company’s website. You will base your cover letter on these 3 keywords. Do you have difficulties finding relevant keywords? Check out our Keywords Toolbox and find those that fit the most your personality.
What should be the structure of your covering letter?
Although there are several ways of writing a cover letter, it is usually divided into three main parts:
- the first part is about presenting yourself very briefly and why you are contacting this company
- the second part aims at showing how good a fit you are for this job
- the third part concludes on a potential collaboration.
The first part: why do you contact this company?
You should first begin with salutations. How to decide on it? There are three cases:
- You know the name of the recruiter: Dear Mr/Mrs LastName
- You know the name of the recruiter but are not sure of their gender: Dear FirstName LastName
- You do not know the name of the recruiter: Dear Hiring Manager / To whom it may concern
Followed by a column or a coma, then line break.
As aforementioned, you should write a short presentation of yourself that draws your reader’s attention while explaining at the same time why you are applying. This is the most important part of your covering letter, so you should better make it perfect. If it is not well-written, recruiters will simply stop reading it and not take your application into account. Try to show that you have read about the company and that your cover letter is personalized. Copy-pasting is very easy to spot and those applications are way less effective. Use what you learnt on the company’s website, and if you have contacts in the company it is also the moment to say so, in a subtle way.
Dear Mrs Jones,
Please accept this letter and accompanying resume as an application for the Project Manager position at MyOnlineCompany.lk.
I recently graduated from the London School of Economics and I am now looking for a position in Project Management in Colombo. I especially appreciate working in start-up environments and the many possibilities offered by the internet, hence my keen interest in working for MyOnlineCompany.lk. I recently had the opportunity to discuss the company with Claudia Smith who works in your communication department and this confirmed my interest in joining your team.
The second part: why are you the perfect fit?
Do you remember the 3-4 keywords you prepared a few minutes ago? Each one of them will be one paragraph of this second part. The first sentence should present the keyword, which needs to be explained and exemplified. Try to be as analytical as possible and do not only describe what you did.
Remember to always use link words between each paragraph to maintain a flow of reading: moreover / furthermore / in addition / first, second, third, last etc.
Example of a paragraph:
Moreover, I am an organized, reliable and autonomous co-worker. My dedication to the theatre festival in California and my organisational skills helped me anticipate problems and prevent them from occurring, and to take decisions under pressure. This high level of commitment gave me the chance to be promoted to Volunteer Coordinator the following year.
The third part: The company & you
The third part is the conclusion of your cover letter: they should definitely meet you – although put in different words – because working together would be a great asset. This is a part that changes very seldom from one cover letter to another so if you found a version that you really like you can use it whenever you apply.
You can then end by one of the following salutations: Sincerely yours / Kind regards / Yours sincerely.
I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to further demonstrate how my capabilities and talents could benefit your company. Please find attached my CV. If I can provide you with extra professional references, or offer any additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Re-read and improve
Read your text again and spot the points where it is not very logical or clear. When recruiters read your covering letter, they should not be stopped in their flow. Do not hesitate to add a link word whenever needed. And most importantly, do not speak about things you do not know or skills you do not have! Always make positive sentences.
Trim, trim, trim: stick to the essential! You should aim at making it half a page long. Advice: Whatever happens, do not make it more than one page long.
Having it reviewed by a native English speaker would be great to spot the grammar and spelling mistakes. But keep it in your own style!
Do not forget that a cover letter needs to represent who you are
As I said earlier, there is no perfect way to write a cover letter, and it must be first and foremost personal and tailored to the recipient. For instance, if you apply for a graphic designer position, you should include other relevant information, such as your portfolio. Do not hesitate to add elements that would convince a bit more recruiters to hire you. You can add links to your website or your blog. You can be creative if it fits the industry! However, if you want to work for a bank or a consulting company, keep it simple and formal.
Your cover letter format should be clean and simple
Concerning the format of your cover letter:
- Use a classic font size (arial for instance) between 10 to 12.
- Justify your text.
- Indent at the beginning of each part
- Line break after each paragraph
- The text should not be too dense and do not forget to leave some space!
>> You can download our covering letter templates and samples (COMING SOON)
>> Or click on the image below to have a look at our cover letter format
Can you re-use your cover letter for other job offers?
If you apply for jobs in the same industry and that require the same skills, then you can only change the first part of your cover letter. Before applying, always read through the whole cover letter twice to make sure that you changed the name of the company and the job in the whole document! Believe me, that kind of mistake does happen a lot.
What if you want to apply for different types of jobs in various industries but still do not have much time to write a specific letter of motivation for each of the job vacancies? You could do the following:
- Select a few keywords that you will need to use to apply.
Example: You want to apply for marketing positions and business development either in online businesses or tech companies.
Marketing: creativity – analytical skills – communication skills
Business development: persuasive – language skills – energetic
Online business: interest in the internet – analytical – hard-working
Tech companies: tech savvy – problem solving – team spirit
- Write a paragraph for each of these skills
- When you look at the job offers, you only need to change the first part of your covering letter, then pick the 3-4 relevant keywords related to this specific offer and copy paste them in your motivation letter.
It is however very important to bear in mind that a covering letter works always best when the content is highly personalized, also in terms of tone, so although this solution will save you some time, whenever you apply for the job of your dreams, make a cover letter from scratch and spend half a day to make it perfect – recruiters can always tell when candidates copy-pasted a covering letter or when they write a personalized letter.
How to write a generic cover letter
On EverJobs.lk, you have the possibility to upload a generic cover letter that you can use for diverse jobs, instead of creating a personalized one. How can you do that?
If you apply for the same kind of jobs only, the structure of your motivation letter could be the following:
part 1: You explain why you are super interested in the industry, instead of speaking of a particular company.
part 2: You use three generic keywords that will work for any job you apply for.
part 3: You express your motivation to work with them and say that you would gladly meet them.
Dear Hiring Manager,
Please accept this letter and accompanying resume as an application for a Project Manager position.
I recently graduated from the London School of Economics and I am now looking for a position in Project Management in Colombo. I especially appreciate working in start-up environments and the many possibilities offered by the internet, hence my keen interest in working in this industry.
My breadth of international experience in professional roles and internships has afforded me to develop several key skills. First, I am a creative person, whether it be in an artistic field, such as the creation of visual content in line with the brand identity of Ubisoft during E3, the world biggest videogame show, or in logistics, with the creation of an Excel program from scratch to handle the schedules of the more than sixty volunteers that I coordinated during a theatre festival in San Francisco.
Moreover, I am an organized, reliable and autonomous co-worker. My dedication to the theatre festival in California and my organisational skills helped me prevent problems and take decisions under pressure, which granted me the chance to be promoted to Volunteer Coordinator the following year.
I was also greatly appreciated by my team members – who came from diverse cultural backgrounds – thanks to a good knowledge of foreign languages (French, English, Italian, and German) and good interpersonal communication skills. I was thus able during my internship at Ubisoft to handle delicate negotiations and to foster team spirit to achieve better results.
I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to further demonstrate how my capabilities and talents could benefit your company. Please find attached my CV. If I can provide you with extra professional references, or offer any additional information, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
Thank you for your consideration; I look forward to hearing from you soon.
>> Go to your profile and write your generic cover letter
Create a PDF version of your Letter of Motivation if you send it by email
A PDF version basically creates an image of your document and will allow recruiters to open it on any browser or computer. It is definitely easy to do: if you work on Microsoft Word, go to “File”, then click on “Save as” and choose “Save as PDF” in the drop-down menu. Name it YourLastName_YourFirstName_Cover_Letter so that recruiters can easily find your letter in their documents.
If you send you application by email, you should enclose your CV and your covering letter and write a short message that presents you very quickly and entices recruiters to open your letter.
Dear Mr. Jones,
I would like to express my interest in the SEO content creation internship with Company.
I am a journalist with five years’ experience, originally from Sydney in Australia. Prior to moving to Colombo, I was a senior journalist and online producer with News Corporation Australia. In this role I gained extensive experience in both print and online production.
Please find attached my current resume and letter of motivation – I look forward to hearing from you.
You can also just copy-paste your cover letter in your email, but employers might be reluctant to reading such a long text and discard your application.
Create an account on Everjobs.lk and apply directly online
Everjobs is the best online job portal in Sri Lanka and aims at making your job application as easy as possible. You surely have already created your online CV after reading our Ultimate guide to writing a perfect CV, so now go to your dashboard, click on Edit my CV, then on the “My Cover Letter” tab on top left corner and write your Cover Letter.