Check Your Cover Letter- 5 Essentials

cover letter

“Dear Hiring Manager, I am applying for xyz job that I came across on abc website” 95% of cover letters have a similar beginning and unfortunately a similar end-landing in a big pile of HR database.

Cover letters are like movie trailers. They are teasers for our big story (our career). Teaser has to be engaging and interesting to drive the audience (hiring managers) to watch the full movie (your resume and interviewing You).  A well written cover letter has power to distinguish you and help you stand out in those thousands of resumes.

Have a strong opening line- preferably your elevator pitch.  Stay away from the standard opening lines. Write something that shows you are eligible and enthusiastic.

 “I’m a graphics design professional with 12 years of experience and I’d love to bring my expertise and passion to your growing creative team.” 

Keep it small- Your cover letter should ideally be one or two paragraphs and never more than a page. Remember, this letter needs to be customised for each role you are applying for and must highlight the skills you possess related to that role.

Do your Homework: Research the company and the job opening you are applying for. Read the news related to that company/industry/domain. Find the common grounds and then mention in your cover letter how you can contribute.

Use Keywords: Keywords are vital part of a cover letter and should be used judiciously to enhance the impact of your offerings. Analyze the job opening and look for keywords that define you best.

 Analyzed, quantified, planned, programmed, designed, created, built, mentored, taught, trained etc are some talent defining keywords.

To show your achievements result oriented keywords like increased, reduced, redesigned, upgraded, initiated, implemented, reformulated, generated, and produced can be used.

In addition to these highlight your recognitions by keywords such as- honored, awarded, promoted, selected, lauded for, received a bonus for, recognized, chosen and credited.

Reflect your Personality: It is important to give that human touch to your cover letter. Do not write it as if you are a robot with certain set of specifications. Reflect your enthusiasm- write why you would like to work for this particular company, why you are a right person for this role.

And once again the most important task is to customize your cover letter for each and every job role you are applying for.

Spruce up your cover letter and see how this single page document can lead you to wonderful opportunities.

Build Your Confident Persona

Confident Woman

Most Indian Women are taught to be subservient, not confident. We are told that we need to listen, not speak up. I see many professional Indian women with hunched shoulders, not making eye contact in a meeting, not standing tall and not speaking up. Also women don’t ask for raises or negotiate for their job package. We need to get our voices heard to get what we deserve and to get ahead.

Being in a male dominated software industry, I started working on a persona that will get me heard despite my petite stature and soft voice. Here are five steps that will help Indian women build that confident and successful professional persona:

Think positive to start with, never ever think or say negative things about you or about what you are doing. We all have things which we can improve on, but focus on things you are really good at and that you enjoy doing. It doesn’t mean that you stop evolving as a person and start ignoring things to work on. Don’t use sentences like – ‘Sorry to take up your time’. Instead say, ‘Thank you for your time’. Don’t say – ‘I am terrible at….’. Instead say, ‘I am working to be better at….’. There are always two sides to a coin, try to focus on the positive side. A positive attitude goes a long way in bringing out a confident persona.

Our great scripture, the Bhagwat Gita, states, “Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani.” It means, do your task without being attached to the result. This detachment gives you additional confidence when you are doing your best but you don’t sound desperate for results. It helps you to be in the moment, to be present. When you are in your confident career woman persona – don’t think of the past, don’t worry about what will come next but be your best in the present moment. Give your hundred percent to it.

Develop body awareness – Stand tall, make sure that your shoulders are not hunched. Here are some simple yoga postures to bring out the confidence in you:

1. Standing on your heels with arms stretched above you, make yourself as tall as possible. Come back down after you have taken 2 deep breaths. Repeat twice.

2. Plant right foot firmly on the floor, raise the left foot and put it somewhere on your right leg (except the knee). Balance. Slowly outstretch your arms above you in a V shape. Stand tall and grounded like a tree but be ready to sway when needed so you don’t fall. Take a couple of deep breaths and focus. Repeat on the other side.

Practice, Practice, Practice – Practice your communication skills in front of the mirror or with trusted friends/ family members. Develop your professional voice. Bring out the voice that is confident and firm. Try not to ramble, but communicate in a way that is clear, concise and confident. Practice your listening skills so you don’t cut off others but come across as attentive. Find toastmasters in your area. They can really help with practicing your verbal skills.

Absorb it in: For a few minutes every day, find a quiet place, close your eyes and imagine the most confident you – either speaking at a public forum or asking for a raise or giving the toughest interview – whatever your situation might be. Say to yourself – ‘I am confident’, ‘I am successful’ or choose another affirmation that works for you. These positive affirmations will help in building a confident and professional persona that is necessary in today’s world.

Just one last thing, find a professional attire that works for you. It could be a saree, pant suit, jacket or anything that speaks to you about the confident professional woman you are about to become. Anytime you want that added confidence, put on your professional attire, like a superwoman ready to take on the world and bring out your confident career woman persona.

Go ahead – make that presentation to your CEO, present your idea to a VC or ask for a raise. Whatever your goal maybe, get closer to it!


This article was originally published on

Are You Heading For The Right Role?

Recently one of my team members approached me for some coaching. She wanted to grow into being an Account Manager in the next six months. As part of our discussion, we identified the skills that are required for her to fulfill the role, ascertained the gaps and set down to create a plan to bridge these gaps. Good – so far.Right Role

As we set down going through each of the gaps, she started slowly started objecting to some of the gaps – this was not aligned to her core areas; she didn’t like doing some stuff; tasks that were routine and administrative…

 If we look at any role across the industries and the people who are performing it – we learn that each role requires us to perform a multitude of tasks. Some of these are very obvious (e.g Steve Jobs introducing the new iPhone to the world as CEO of Apple) while some of these might be less exposed (bitter boardroom fights for control). We can look at many examples closer to our work place – a manager handing out performance appraisals, customer meetings for a delayed project, attending meetings across time-zones etc.

When we chart our career path, we sometimes make the mistake of identifying future roles based on the outside view (glamour, control, authority, fame, power, working hours, work-life balance etc). Even when it is obvious, we sometimes overlook some parts to convince ourselves. While determining the next role or charting a long term career – trick is to look deeper to see what was not observed at the first glance. Asking yourself about conflicts, workload, time pressure, importance, resources, time zones etc. It is helpful if one can talk to someone who is already performing such a role. Also, studying the weekly routine of such a person can sometime provide insights which they themselves cannot.

Once all the Do’s for a particular role are identified, there will start a process that will help reach a judgment about suitability of a role. To start with, there will be activities that one will not like doing.  One needs to ensure that higher gratification is driven from the activities that are liked vs. the dismay of performing those that are not liked.

Does it mean that one fails in the roles where this gratification is not higher than dismay or is success guaranteed for perfect gratification score? Actually no, real life is not black-n-white, but played out as mostly grey. Depending on the gratification/dismay you start with, a number of real life factors, personal strengths and Murphy’s laws – one will perform the role with varying degrees of success.  It is very likely that the chance of success will decrease as dismaying activities increase. It is also very certain that if the score is not tipped in favor of gratification – one will not enjoy, even if one if successful.

A very likely possibility while evaluating a role is that we come across one, where one will like doing all the tasks associated for the role. When that happens, we know that we have found our Dream Job, where one will succeed and enjoy immensely on the way. And that will be the time to bring everything together to get there.

Contributed by: Abhilash Bhanot