Friday, 24 February 2012

Fourth-Year Student Guide to Finding a Translation Job-Step #2 Cover Letter

Shoot me if I’m wrong (um, please don’t actually shoot me; it’s an expression) but cover letters are really hard to write. The problem is, of course, that you are expected to write in full sentences. Oh, the horror!

Full sentences please

It’s pretty hard to mess up point form, which is the standard way people structure their résumés. But ask me to be pithy in full sentences with a main clause, subject, verb etc. and I’m suddenly at a loss. I know: you’re shaking your heads thinking “How could this be? Chloe, you’re sooo smart, and I distinctly remember that at least one of the sentences in your past blog post had a subject and verb and everything.” My first response to this is “thank you, but I think you might be mistaken.” Once in a blue moon I am capable of adhering to the rules of English grammar and sentence structure, but not often. Plus, it’s so much harder in a cover letter. 

So, first things first, brush up on your grammar. You can start here if you want: 10 Words you Need to Stop Misspelling. Grammar, punctuation and spelling is where HR managers or anyone else reading your application will be incredibly critical, especially if you’re applying for a job that requires you be a perfectionist and/or detail oriented like, I don’t know... a translation position for example.  Look, finding a job is hard enough on its own being a student with little to no experience. Give yourself a fighting chance by not making careless mistakes. Even the teeniest, tiniest typo will get you out of the race before the shot’s even been fired.

Let’s talk content

The content of the cover letter should be very specific to the job you’re applying for. A professor once told me to write an entirely new cover letter for every position I apply for. It’s good advice because how many times have I found myself plugging in the job title and company name into the same generic cover letter only to find I forgot to change the company name, and now my application says how much I want to work for Zellers, when I actually applied to Wal-Mart? More times than I’d like to admit. They want to know you thought long and hard about the company and what they’re looking for. More importantly, they want to know that you have what they’re looking for. There is almost no excuse for not knowing anything about the company. Google anyone? Mention something—anything!—that proves you know what their mission and values are. Then show how your skills will help them fulfill that mission. If it’s a translation position at a customer-focused company, which many are, try something like this: I know that an organization that prides itself on providing their customers with accurate, timely information, needs detail-oriented employees who blah blah blah. See? Easy. Now you try it.

Tone it

And I don’t mean your arms, although if they’re looking anything like mine they might be due for a good work out. When it comes to your cover letter, adjust the tone to the company’s style. I once applied for a position at a company with a very young, hip, trendy vibe. I knew they were looking for people with a sense of humour so I did my best to inject that into my cover letter. I actually remember using the words “ninja-fast typing skills” in the body of the letter. And I got an interview! My interview was awful, and will be addressed later, but at least my cover letter got my foot in the door.

Make your conclusion chocolate cake

Leave them salivating and wanting more. You know, the way you feel after you’ve finished the last slice of cake but aren’t completely satisfied. I’d like to suggest you make them believe that choosing anyone else but you would be the worst mistake of the lives.  But we have to be realistic. At the end of the day, what’s really important is that you communicate your sincere desire to be part of their organization.

If you need any more help writing a cover letter, you can always visit one of Glendon’s Counselling and Disability Services workshops or even drop in Mondays: 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm and Thursdays: 11:00 am - 3:00 pm for résumé and cover letter writing help. See my past blog post for more information on that. And follow them on Twitter: @GLCandDServices

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