Social Sector Job Guide: Writing A Cover Letter That Will Get You An Interview

By Anchal Kakkar & Surabhi Nijhawan

Have you ever wondered if you should put in that extra effort of working on a cover letter? Or if cover letters are essential, and whether hiring managers read them at all? Our answer is yes!  A cover letter makes your profile stand out. And, if you are applying to a social sector organisation, it enables you to elaborate upon your passion and reason for your interest in the job !

Here are some tips from our team on writing a great cover letter when applying for jobs in the development space.

Avoid talking about your educational qualifications

A cover letter is your chance to tell a story that defines your career path and experiences. Rather than writing about your degrees (which are already part of your resume) – talk about the soft skills you learnt on a job, or describe your responsibilities and achievements. For example, instead of writing, ‘I have done journalism at X Institute’, you could write – ‘ I covered Lok Sabha elections and interviewed local MLAs for my school project. The assignment helped me improve my interviewing skills, and understand the value of networking’.

Emphasise on transferable skills

When applying for a job in the impact sector, you should be able to show that your previous work experience will be relevant to the new role. An excellent way of doing this is by highlighting the transferable skills. Doing so helps the recruiter understand whether you will be suitable for the job or not.

The cover letter should be short, simple and to-the-point.

The word limit of your cover letter should be around 300 words. The language should be comprehensible. Thus, it is a good idea to avoid jargon.  The cover letter should indicate your ability to do the job well. Avoid narrating anecdotes or rewriting your entire resume. A short and straightforward cover letter is a hiring manager’s delight.   

Describe your understanding of the company

Before writing the cover letter – read about the company in detail. Visit their website and social media handles. Talk to people who work at that organisation. Study and analyse the content, the posts and the culture of the company, especially, the department you want to join. Include your observations and suggestions in the cover letter.  This will illustrate the extra mile that you have gone for the job, even before the interview.

Highlight the social impact you created ( if any )

Use the cover letter to elaborate on the real-work you did at your previous job. “Impacted the lives of 1000 children through managing workshops on soft-skills.” Clearly describing your previous achievements will help the employer get clarity on your social sector experience.

Explain, succinctly, why you would be an asset to the organisation

The cover letter is your opportunity to make the hiring manager develop an interest in your profile before seeing your CV. Highlight your skills, what sets you apart, how would your selection be an advantage to the organisation, and all previous relevant experience which will help the hiring manager decide why to choose you.

Customisation is key

Customise your cover letter based on the job you are applying for. A cover letter for a Curriculum Lead will vary from that of a Project Manager. The cover letter is your opportunity to customise and personalise your communication to the hiring manager.

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