The Cover Letter

Many young people wanting to work for the social purpose sector ask me how they best position and present themselves to be recruited. They are interested in the type of organizations they should pick, and how they should price themselves in the market.



I am posting this article in response to the numerous queries from young people on career choices, CVs, participating in interviews, and applying for jobs.


Following a discussion with TISS undergraduates last year, I wrote an article on exploring which organization to work for. There is the choice of forward looking, risk taking and innovative organizations which are pushing forward new ideas and solutions. Others are legacy organizations – the traditional national and international non-governmental organizations, institutions and firms providing back-office functions, and consulting agencies advising on strategy and technical support.


The link to the article is here.


Most national and international social purpose organizations have limited flexibility within their pay scales, and they slot their standard Job Descriptions within ‘fixed salary bands’. Forward looking organizations innovating for the future will take risks to invest above market rates in talent and capabilities which they deem strategic and fit-for-purpose. Organizations advising on strategy and provision of technical support look for agile and adept problem solvers and are willing to negotiate competitive rates. The trade-off is these may be short-term opportunities.


Currently, there is a demand for recruits who can learn or deploy digital abilities to aggregate ‘clients’ (‘program participants’ within the social purpose sector), deliver capability development, create platforms for remote provision of health, education, and nutrition services, and enhance monitoring and evidence gathering, and oversee processes.

While the CV proves eligibility and the required credentials to apply for a position, an effective Cover Letter can help present the applicant as a serious and strong candidate for a position. The Cover Letter can present character, aspirations, accomplishments connecting track record with the organization’s priorities, and describe the potential to learn, stretch and adapt.


A well-crafted Cover Letter can present the applicant as someone to consider investing in within a competitive market.


So, as a recruiter what do I think is an effective Cover Letter?

  1. Ideally, a page long.

  2. Simple language and to the point… avoid jargon and tech-speak.

  3. Comprises three sections or paragraphs.

  • Section 1. Lead with aspirations and intentions. What is it you want to accomplish and the changes you want to bring about? What impact do you want to have? What cause do you want to contribute to? Be specific… “Contribute to women and girls’ literacy and economic opportunity”, “Ensure my work contributes to reducing healthcare costs for rural households” etc.

  • Section 2. Connect Section 1 with your track record. How have your academic credentials, professional experience, internships, accomplishments, etc. supported your aspirations and intentions? Share how your accomplishments and experience are similar to the priorities of the position? What work or accomplishments are you especially proud of? Explain how you would want to align your credentials and experience to support jobs you are applying for. If you have an updated LinkedIn profile it would be useful to include the link here.

  • Section 3. This is an important section of the Cover Letter. Explain how aspirations and credentials/experience will contribute to the organization’s expectations of the position. Do research on the organization's priorities and understand how the position you are applying for can help advance those priorities. When you do research and review an organization's website, look at the ‘About Us’, or the ‘Who we are’ to understand the culture and leadership principles of the organization. Explain how you would function in the position, foster teamwork, adapt to new challenges, and measure the success of your work. You can also mention how this position will contribute to your personal and professional growth.

  • Close with a strong ‘call-to-action’ which are a couple of sentences to express your enthusiasm about the job and looking forward to being contacted for an interview. Include at least two direct ways to contact you — such as your email address and phone number at the end which is the last thing the recruiter will see in your Cover Letter.

I hope this article is useful.

If an illustrative template would help, please comment. If there is sufficient interest, I can put one together.


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