What matters more, resume or application? (Part 2: How to Write an Application Letter)
In part 1 of this series, I taught you how to write a killer resume. This time, we are going to talk about your application letter — what it is, why it’s different from a resume, and how to write an application letter that can help you land your dream job.
What is an Application Letter?
Many job seekers don’t use application letter and cover letter interchangeably. But they are different. An application letter is a standalone document that you submit to a company to express your interest in a vacant position. This letter explains who you are as an individual and as a professional. It also highlights your skills, background, achievements, and any relevant information that you think will help you get noticed. You can also use your application letter to showcase your personality and familiarity with the company.
A well-written application letter explains to the hiring manager why he should invite you for an interview and why you are perfect for the position you are applying for.
An application letter is not a cover letter. A cover letter is just a document that accompanies your CV or resume. It’s usually three to four sentences long, highlighting your experiences, accomplishments, and why you are perfect for the job. A cover letter is not as extensive as an application letter because it’s not meant to be a standalone document.
Why Write an Application Letter?
There are many reasons why you should write an application instead of just flinging copies of your resume. Below are some of them:
- An application can serve as a formal introduction;
- When written correctly, it can give you an edge against other job seekers vying for the role;
- It can help you access job vacancies that are not advertised by your prospective employer;
- It’s a “shortcut” in a sense that you don’t have to apply for a job online or write resumes and cover letters.
How to Write an Application Letter
Do you want to learn how to write a convincing application letter? Follow these steps to make sure that you include important information about yourself and highlight key areas of your professional experience:
Step 1️⃣: Study the company and the position you are applying for
Take some time to learn more about the company. Find their “why”. And see how you fit in. You’ll most likely find this information on their website.
Next, review the job post of the position you are applying for. Compare your background, skills, and other qualifications. Are you up to the task? Do you have specific experiences that have prepared you for the job that you can share in your application letter?
It’s best to write a custom application letter for each position you are interested in. The last thing managers want is a copy-pasted letter.
Step 2️⃣. Use a professional format in your application letter
An application letter must be written in professionally. Below are some guidelines to keep in mind:
When a hiring manager reviews your application letter, the first thing he sees is your formatting. So, create a good first impression by taking some time to format your application letter professionally and keeping its content short but meaningful.
Step 3️⃣. Use a proper heading
Your job application letter must follow a formal business heading. Include in the header your name, contact details, date, and the name and address of the company you are applying to. See the example below:
John Atkins (your name)
9261 Park Road, TELFORD TF97 3ER (your physical address)
01632 960451 (your phone number)
firstname.lastname@example.org (your email)
March 26, 2020 (date)
Jonathan Davis (name of the hiring manager)
HR Manager (position or title of the hiring manager)
Company ABC (company name)
667 York Road, SLOUGH SL53 0CI (company address)
A professional and detailed heading like this makes it easy for the hiring manager to contact you regarding your application.
Step 4️⃣. Address your application letter to the hiring manager
This is where your research skills come into play. It’s best if you know the name of the person reviewing the job applications so you can address your application letter accordingly. Use business greetings like “Dear Mr. / Dear Ms.” Followed by the last name of the hiring manager.
As per our previous example:
Dear Mr Davis,
If you don’t know the name and gender of the hiring manager, you can use generic greetings like “Dear hiring manager” or “To Whom It May Concern”.
Step 5️⃣. The first paragraph of your letter should be an expression of your interest
The first paragraph of your application letter should include your purpose — that you are applying for a vacant position. Mention the job title as well as where you saw the posting. Describe your interest and highlight some key experiences and/or qualifications that make you perfect for the role.
The first paragraph can make or break your chances of getting an interview. Use this valuable space to hook the hiring manager into reading the rest of your application letter. Keep it short but impactful.
Step 6️⃣. Talk about your qualifications and experience
Use the next paragraphs of your application letter to talk about your experiences and qualifications. Make sure these are relevant to the position you are applying for. For instance, if you are applying for a job in a digital marketing agency that serves small and medium businesses, talk about your experience in the same field. Because an application letter doesn’t need a resume to go along with it, hiring managers will appreciate it if you include relevant details about your experience.
Step 7️⃣. Don’t be afraid to show your personality
Don’t be too stiff in your application letter. Writing in a friendly and engaging tone is more appealing to the hiring manager — unless you are applying for a very technical position.
Step 8️⃣. Don’t forget to say “thank you”
Don’t forget to express your appreciation to the hiring manager for taking the time to read your application letter. Remember, they are humans too. Saying “thank you” is a polite and professional way to end your application letter.
Step 9️⃣. Close
Use any professional sign-offs you like (i.e. “best”, “sincerely”, “yours truly”, etc.). The last line of your application letter should be your full name. If you are sending through a hard copy of your letter, make sure to affix your signature above your name.
Step 1️⃣0️⃣. Review your application letter
Grammar mistakes in a professional letter can be very embarrassing. So, take the time to read and reread your application letter. You can also ask your friends or family to review your application letter for you. Sometimes, it takes another pair of eyes to spot some mistakes that you overlooked.
Step 1️⃣1️⃣. Send your application letter
Everything’s polished? Great! Now it’s time to send your application letter. If you plan to email your application letter to the hiring manager, make sure to pick the right subject line. Remember, the hiring manager goes through hundreds of emails per day, so using a subject line that captures his attention is crucial.
For an application letter, the best subject line is professional, relevant, concise, and polite. Don’t forget to include the title of the position you are applying to and be as specific as you can.
The Verdict: What matters more, resume or application?
I’ve shown you how to write a killer resume in the first blog post of this series. And in this article, I taught you how to write a professional application letter. Now, it’s time to decide. What matters more? A resume or an application letter?
While it’s clear that each serves its purpose, the job application letter matters more.
A resume is good for showcasing your detailed work history, experiences, skills, and achievements. But when it comes to “connecting” with your hiring manager, the application letter wins. A professionally written job application letters let you explain why you are qualified for the job. It also gives your hiring manager a look at your personality as long as you can carefully incorporate this in your writing.
It takes a while to learn how to write effective application letters compared to filling up some bullet points in a resume. However, if you try to master it one step at a time, an application letter can be a big differentiating factor when it comes to winning interviews and landing your dream job.
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