Applying for the job you want can be a daunting task, but cover letters are an integral part of the application process - they can make the difference between being called for an interview and not being contacted at all, so don’t overlook its importance and use this opportunity to your advantage. Want to know how to write a cover letter and how to make it stand out from the crowd? Read on!
Your cover letter accompanies and complements your CV. It builds upon your skills and experiences and is an opportunity to showcase your personality, expand on relevant qualifications and experience, and persuade prospective employers that you’d be a great fit for the role you’re applying for.
Do address the letter to the relevant person - the hiring manager’s name is usually on the job advert, if not, a quick Google or LinkedIn search should help you locate these details. Finding out this information shows initiative!
Do your research - companies are looking to hire people who have a sincere interest in working for them and it’s the function of the cover letter to convince them that’s exactly what you want! Articulate the reasons that make you a great fit for their company culture.
Do connect your CV with the job description - persuasively align your skills and qualifications to the company’s job requirements, using their job advert as your guide and highlight any transferable skills and successes. If you’re applying prospectively, you can still tailor your letter with knowledge of the company and its successes, lining these up with your own career goals.
Do keep it relevant - everything you say in your cover letter needs to prove to the employer that you meet the requirements for the role. If it doesn’t, it’s not worth including!
Do keep it succinct - according to a recent survey, 46% of employers prefer a half-page cover letter. So keep it short, concise and to the point.
Do use examples - it’s easy to list desirable attributes, but company’s want to see these in action, so use meaningful anecdotes to make an impression and ensure that they’re relevant to the job role.
Do tailor your tone and language - learn about the company’s values, principles, beliefs and attitudes and ensure this is represented in your letter, showing you’re a cultural fit!
Do use an appropriate font - It’s not just about how articulately and convincing you write, it’s also about how that content looks on the page! Use a font that’s highly legible, conservative in nature, and appropriate to the business you’re applying for. Whatever style and size you go for, make sure this matches your CV!
Do follow the submission requirements - the job description may include instructions on additional things to include in your application; read this carefully and ensure you are writing in the correct format and have included any requested attachments. Also answer any questions asked in the job advert!
Do check your spelling and grammar - scrupulously proof-read all your communications with your prospective employers. A typo could see your application on the recycling bin!
Do get a second opinion - get someone you trust to read over your cover letter and assess its clarity and effectiveness. They’ll also likely pick up on any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes that you may have missed.
Don’t use abbreviations and emoticons - use the full expressiveness of language, remembering that this is a professional document. If jargon and abbreviations are associated with your industry, spell them out in the first instance and use sparingly.
Don’t use cliches - falling back on such phrases undermines the effectiveness of your letter and has been done too many times before. The idea is to stand-out, not blend in!
Don’t use the same cover letter for multiple jobs - it may save you time but won’t convince your potential employer; you’ll be reduced to stock phrases and generic statements that will make you appear lazy and indicate a lack of interest.
Don’t overshare - your personal life doesn’t need to appear in your cover letter, it’s irrelevant and will not improve your employability. Keep the focus on the job you’re applying for! You also don’t need to include your age, nationality, gender, marital status etc.
Don’t make it about you - your cover letter is about what your employer wants, so you don’t need to talk about what you’d personally get from the job. Use this opportunity to show what you can do to help the company fulfil their goals and objectives and how that complements your own aspirations.
Don’t doubt your own suitability - a recruiter only wants to know what you can do for them, if you’re lacking in experience but have relevant transferable skills, focus on those strengths!
Don’t be too keen - enthusiasm and confidence is fundamental, but being overly eager will come across desperate and the employer may think you’re not in high demand
Relevancy and brevity should be at the forefront of your mind whilst constructing your letter. Do your homework and be creative. There’s a basic format for writing a cover letter that you can use as a basepoint, but it’s up to you to make it pop!
Typically speaking, your cover letter should start with letter writing basics (your address, hiring manager’s name) and the opening paragraph should be succinct and straight to the point. Simply explain what job you’re applying for and how you heard about the vacancy.
Answer the question ‘Why are you suitable for the role?” by concisely describing your relevant professional and academic qualifications and experience. If you are lacking in these areas, highlight how your personal skills and attributes complement the position you’re applying for.
Answer the question “What can you do for the company?” by drawing on practical examples from previous employment positions and your academic career. Ensure that these are quantifiable and honest - ‘increased profit by x%’ sounds more impressive than ‘increased profit’ for example.
Reiterate your interest and the reasons you would be a suitable candidate, but don’t repeat yourself.
Conclude by thanking them for their time and consideration. Don’t be afraid to ask for an interview!
There are a plethora of online tools that offer templates and samples which can help you get started, but your cover letter will only be as good as the effort you put into it.