Cover Letter Tips
In the days when you would have applied for a job by post, your cover letter would have been your first chance to `wow’ the employer. Nowadays it’s much more common to apply for jobs online or by email, but the cover letter is still just as important.
Whether your cover letter is hand written or electronic, it`ll be the first thing an employer or agent reads. This means it’s a good idea to write something short and snappy that makes your reader want to take a look at your CV or application form.
If you're applying to a number of similar positions, then it’s tempting to keep using the same cover letter. However, it’s advisable to change your letter slightly for each position. Don’t forget to update the company, job, and contact information - if Mr. Smith is addressed as Mrs. Jones then your application form could end up in the bin!.
Most importantly, you should always include your contact details. You might already have this information on your CV, but there's no harm doubling up.
What is an application covering letter
A covering letter accompanies your CV as part of an application for a job. It provides further detail on how your skill set aligns with the role that you are applying for, what you can bring to the team and why you want the position. Cover letters allow recruiters and employers to develop a better understanding of your suitability for a position. You should align your qualifications, relevant skills and past work experience clearly to the job description to emphasise that you have done your research into the role and are keen to join the team and why you feel you should be considered accordingly. This is often where first impressions are made in the mind of an employer, making it one of the most critical components of an application. In addition to this, it has been found that employers often favour CVs that are accompanied by a cover letter.
A good covering letter will increase your chances of being invited for an interview.
What should your covering letter include?
A good covering letter must always contain the following information:
Name of the sender
Addressee, place and date
Subject (with job reference number)
Your motivation for applying
Your experience and suitability for the role
Always state your motivation and suitability in a positive way.
Conclusion and signature
HOW TO WRITE IT
Type it - Handwritten letters can be difficult to read or attach to emails and may imply you are not comfortable using technology.
Triple-check it - Many people stop reading a letter at the first mistake, so double check your letter carefully for language, spelling or syntax errors. Computer spell and grammar checks will catch most mistakes but is never fool-proof, so have someone else read through your letter to be absolutely sure.
Get a name to address your letter to – This will ensure you send it to the right person that is handling the recruitment of the role that you are applying for. If there is no name to address the letter to in the job advert, phone to get one. It is generally a good idea to phone in advance to clarify any queries you may have and make yourself known as an interested candidate.
Clearly state what position you are applying for, who you are and why you are interested.
Convince the reader you want the job
What a lot of job seekers don’t realise is that those looking to fill a position may have a valid fear that their ideal candidate will turn down the job or not stick at it for very long. Convince them you really are interested and how it fits in with your (career) plans.
Convince the reader that you could do the job
Match the skills and experience you have with what they are looking for. Give examples of qualities they ask for and how you have coped with similar responsibilities in the past. Refer specifically to skills and experience listed on your CV. Make sure you tailor your language: use the phrases they use wherever possible.
Let your personality shine through
Write with enthusiasm and be positive.
Throughout, show that you have researched the position and the employer. This is called competitive intelligence. Quotes from their (and their competitors’) website or other information you may have will show you have done your homework.
Understand your values, understand their values
A more subtle use of competitive intelligence is to get a good understanding of a company’s values and show how yours match. Having shared values creates a human connection. The same is true for language.
End with a confident conclusion
Summarise what you offer and how that fits perfectly with what they are looking for. Say you are looking forward to the interview to explore the fit. If you are writing a speculative application rather than in response to a job advert, indicate that you will call in a specific number of days (and do so).
Common Cover Letter Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)
Many people fail to really exploit the benefits a great cover letter can provide. They either don't include one at all, or they fall into a number of traps that reduce the effectiveness of their letters. Let’s take a look at some of these:
- Covering letters must be brief. A maximum of one side of A4. It should be easy to read, with plenty of white space and in a legible font. Writing a long and dense cover letter is counter-productive and the employer will simply not read it.
- There is no value in a cover letter that merely repeats the information you’ve already given in your CV. Take the opportunity to tell the employer or recruiter something new; something that will help them feel that you are exactly the right candidate for them.
- Candidates who fill their cover letters with lists of skills are missing an opportunity if they do not substantiate them. There is little value to the employer in hearing that you’ve got great team-work skills – everyone says this. But hearing that you’ve demonstrated those skills doing xx, explaining what you brought to that team, and what the team achieved, is of far more interest. It demonstrates that you genuinely are someone with those skills.
- Cover letters must also be specific to the particular role and employer. Any candidate who includes a generic cover letter is showing a lack of commitment and interest in the particular role and the employer will pick up on this. Take the time to really explain why you are interested in the role and what you could contribute. Make it personal.
- On a similar note, check that the details you’ve included within the cover letter are correct. There’s nothing worse than receiving a cover letter applying for a different role, particularly one that is with a competitor!
You would think sending in a cover letter is better than not sending one in at all, but if you’re just going to phone it in, you’re not doing yourself any favours. In fact, you’re probably wasting your time. So, if you want to reap all those benefits of writing one, make sure you’re giving it your best effort all the way until the end.