How to Use the Cover Letter to Address the Need for Sponsorship
A need for sponsorship from an employer can come up for a lot of reasons in a US job search. Not all US employers are willing to offer sponsorship. So, the timing of when and how you raise this need can be tricky. The cover letter can be the right place to address your need for employer sponsorship while also telling your story about why you are a good fit for the job. Here is what you need to know to do this effectively.
US Cover Letter Basics
Before understanding how, or if to include something, it is important to first remember the purpose of a cover letter. Fundamentally, the cover letter in the US is to tell the story beyond your resume. The cover letter will not be parsed by the ATS. Instead, employers in the US use it to gain a better picture of the candidate. The person skimming the cover letter will be looking for the answer to why are you applying to this job and why do you think that you are a good fit. (Read here for more details on what to include in a cover letter). Thus, using this context and purpose, you can effectively raise the issue of your need for sponsorship.
Do Your Research
But, should you include the fact that you need employer sponsorship in your cover letter? The real answer is that it depends. Leaving it out of the cover letter may get you the interview. But, that same company may have a policy or unwillingness to sponsor candidates. So, even if you get the interview, you will be wasting your time. The reverse is also true. There are certainly times when a company can be convinced to sponsor an employee. And, getting past that initial hurdle may require leaving the need for sponsorship until the interview.
Instead of playing this guessing game, you are better served to simply do your research upfront. Larger companies will have sponsorship programs and you can presume that they are already providing these benefits for other employees. These programs will have limits to how many people and in what departments offer sponsorship. So, there may be some research needed to decide if there may be sponsorship available for the particular job that you are applying to.
Smaller and mid-size companies also frequently have sponsorship programs for their employees. But, you will need to do research before deciding how and when to raise that question with a particular company. This means leveraging social media like LinkedIn or the company's career page to determine what (if any) policies the organization may have on the topic.
Tell Your Story
An effective US cover letter must tell your story. It needs to include details about your skills and results. But, it must also provide that information in the context of the specific job. An effective way to do this is to use the cover letter to tell the recruiter what you want them to know if you were to have a conversation. This may seem simple, but don't make any assumptions about what the person knows about you or that they see on your resume.
Instead, communicate your skills, qualifications, and experiences so that the person wants to schedule an interview with you. Do not repeat your resume in your cover letter. And, you definitely don't want to presume that every person will read the cover letter (many companies won't even allow you to submit them anymore). Instead, keep the message high level and as specific as possible to engage the person that will skim it.
Remember, you can also use this same space to address any weaknesses. A smart strategy for a US cover letter can be to pivot those weaknesses into strengths. For example, you could say:
Based on my industry experience, I believe that the value that I can immediately bring to the organization will quickly exceed any costs of sponsorship as proven by my results in 2021 YTD.
My experience living abroad and my multi-lingual abilities provide expanded opportunities to engage and better serve customers if selected to join the team.
Thus, think about what your weaknesses are and what others may think they are. And, address them in your cover letter. Be honest, but flip them into strengths if you can. This strategy will help you to stand out and make the interviewing process easier.
Apply the Research to Craft the Why
Finally, make sure that you incorporate the research that you compiled into your cover letter. This will show that you are really interested in the company and the job. This could be as simple as including the details that you learned about the company's visa program. For example, you could do this like the following:
In speaking with Mike Jones, Product Director, I understand that the company H1-B program requires an internship to start. Fit and growth opportunity are the most important to me. So, I am happy to start in whatever capacity if it means an opportunity to progress for the long-term.
This example shows a way to incorporate your research while also referencing your need for employer sponsorship. This method also shows a way to achieve the purpose of the cover letter - to explain your answer to "why hire me for this role?" and "why do I want this role?"
Remember that incorporating your research into the US cover letter should always aid in the purpose of the letter itself. So, craft a strong cover letter first. From there, you can make the decision whether or not to include your need for sponsorship from the employer in the cover letter.
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