Cover letter or motivation letter? A lot of job seekers are confused about these two terms. Cover letter certainly is understood to be a letter of introduction that accompanies a resume or CV. In it, the job seeker may provide a highlight or two of his previous experience that relates to the position opening and then ask for an interview.
The motivational letter also accompanies a resume or CV, but it differs from the basic cover letter in one significant way. It is designed not just to introduce oneself. Its purpose is the following:
To demonstrate a truly strong motivation to be selected for the position that is available.
To convince the hiring manager that the author of this letter is the best person for the job.
Originally, the motivation letter was typically used when the position applied for was in the public and/or non-profit sector, or as an attachment to an application for a graduate program or an internship. In this respect, the motivation letter became like writing an essay rather than a letter. The introductory paragraph was for the candidate to introduce him/herself; the body paragraph provided summarized information about background and a definitive persuasive “bent.” In these paragraphs, the applicant’s goal was to persuade the hiring manager or admissions committee that s/he was absolutely the best candidate for the position.
Today, motivation letters are still commonly used for public, academic, and non-profit job openings. However, they are becoming more common in applying for positions in other career areas, because the resume is becoming less important as a separate document. Here’s why:
Most career candidates have a LinkedIn profile, as well as profiles on other career social media sites related to their niches. This profile, more and more, is becoming the “resume,” and it is easily accessible by a hiring manager.
When a job seeker reads a posting for a position that requests access to his/her professional profiles but not a resume, it is then that a motivational is sent as an introduction. It must be engaging and compelling, and within that letter, the profile access is provided.
Don’t come across as just average. You are way more than that and you are the perfect candidate for the position. But don’t come across as arrogant.
Make your letter as scannable as possible. Use bullet points to show educational and work background that is perfectly suited for the position.
Show don’t just tell. If, for example, you state that you had a very successful 3 years in a position, what made it successful? What facts and data can you give to reinforce that?
Paragraphs should be short and language should be formal, but simple – no long compound sentences in which the reader will be lost.
Be certain that you have researched the company and that you can put something in your letter that relates to its current news. For example, “I noted that you recently purchased XYZ Corporation. This is exciting, and I would love to be a part your growth. This tells the reader that you have enough interest to do our “homework.”
Focus on strengths that relate to the position itself and leave out any background that is irrelevant.
Begin your introduction with a compelling statement about yourself, not a job objective. Those are for resumes, if even then. You can assume that the hiring manager already knows your objective.
Grammar, composition and mechanics must be perfect.
If you have never written a motivation letter before; if you are unsure about anything; if you are concerned about your composition skills, get some professional help.
Photo from European Voluntary Service