A cover letter is what accompanies a professional resume which you submit to a prospective employer, in the hopes of impressing them enough for them to schedule an interview with you—and ultimately, hire you for that job position you want. Think of it as a way of introducing yourself, in writing, to that company.
You can then readily see why cover letter writing styles differ between the West and Southeast Asia; there are differences in how strangers in the professional world introduce themselves to one another in these two cultures. Naturally, that’s also reflected in how a cover letter is written.
So if you’re from Southeast Asia, what would you most probably have to remember when writing that cover letter to a Western employer?
Tip #1. Be eloquent yet succinct.
Westerners prefer concise cover letters. If you can fit everything you want to say into 3-4 short paragraphs that fit one page, do so. This means expressing precisely what you mean, and being straight to the point, without appearing arrogant or rude. Above all, use grammatically correct language (whether it’s English, French, German, etc.).
Tip #2. Know what you need to say, and say it the best way you know how.
What exactly should you say in a cover letter, anyway? As much as possible, address your opening greeting to an actual person in that company—someone in authority who would be in a position to decide to set up an interview with you (e.g., “Mr. / Ms. Richardson: Warmest greetings!”). This means doing some “research” about that company, prior to writing your letter. Otherwise you’ll end up writing the very bland greeting “To whom it may concern,” which doesn’t garner much attention.
Immediately after your greeting, the first short paragraph (about 1-2 sentences long) should say precisely why you’re sending them your resume. (“I learned your company is looking for a ___, and I’d like to work as ___…”) Try to use language that’s warm, courteous, yet not too formal.
The next 2-3 short paragraphs (each no more than 2-3 sentences long) should briefly say what it is about yourself (your skills and work experience) that would make you a suitable candidate for the job opening. Try to describe, as well as you can in these short paragraphs, what it is that you know how to do, and hope to contribute to the company.
Your cover letter’s last, concluding short paragraph should say where and how you can be contacted in case they do want to hire you. It should also say you intend to follow up their response after their receipt of your letter and attachments, to find out if they will hire you or not. Last but not least, this last paragraph should thank the company in advance for taking the time to consider your offer.
Tip #3. Edit your letter to show off your best traits.
Read and edit your letter again so that it subtly grabs the attention of its intended readers. Make sure it’s easy for anyone reading it in a hurry to see what would make you an interesting hire.