Now you’ve done your CV with our help and you’re ready to apply, right? WELL THAT’S NOT ENOUGH. Sometimes… Sometimes you need a cover letter.
Let’s cover (see what I did there?): what a cover letter is, when you need to include one, and how to make YOUR cover letter stand out from the crowd.
FOR THAT IS THE PURPOSE.
Don’t be boring; get job whoring.
When do you need a cover letter?
It’s probably easier to explain when you DON’T need a covering letter. You do not need to include a covering letter if:
The application process asks for specific things (CV, certificates, etc) and does not request a cover letter.
It’s an online application and there is no way to include a cover letter.
The application process specifically says not to include one – hint: this is a test of your ability to follow instructions.
Almost always include a cover letter.
The aim of this piece is to get your CV/resume read. It’s an additional marketing piece and it needs to shine.
Any recruiter is likely to receive a stack of applications. First things first, the ones with no cover letter may go straight in the trash. File 13. A big, burning bin.
There is a chance they may not read it at this stage – a survey by Career Builder concluded that 49% of recruiters want a cover letter. Sure, they may move on to your CV/resume (see our guide on how to write a CV) – but they might sit and read your cover letter. First. Are you willing to take the risk?
But what is a cover letter for?
You use the cover letter to:
Introduce yourself to the HR Manager/Recruiter
Show how you will add value to the company
Demonstrate key skills and experience that the company wants
Give your contact details and when you may be available for an interview
Don’t miss this chance to build rapport, and sell your personal brand to the recruiter.
How to write a cover letter
Six steps. Simple!
- Create a professional header with your contact information
- Open by addressing the relevant person (recruiter/HR manager/hiring manager) by name and explaining what position you’re apply for.
- Use the body of the text to introduce yourself by using things you’ve achieved that are relevant to the position.
- Tell them why you want the position and why you’re a great long-term investment (that you won’t run off in 6 months time)
- Last paragraph is for your call to action – what they should do next.
- Formal sign off, ‘Yours faithfully’ if you don’t know the name of the person you’re writing to, ‘yours sincerely’ in all other instances.
Told you it was simple!
Let’s expand on each step
This is the first thing they’ll see so MAKE IT LOOK PROFESSIONAL. Like you know how to format a document.
Location. Telephone. Email.
Keep it simple. Classy. Professional.
Address the person you are writing to by name, for example:
Dear Mr./Ms. Lastname,
If this information is not available do your research to find out who the right person is.
If you really cannot find out who is recruiting, then To Whom it May Concern, Dear Sir or Madam, Dear ‘insert company name here’ Recruiter, Dear Human Resources Manager all may be appropriate.
With that done explain which job you’re actually applying for (they may have multiple positions vacant) and where you found it – whether it’s through a job site, LinkedIn, recommended by a friend, or something else.
It might look a bit like:
Dear Ms. Lastname,
I would like to apply for the position of Chocolate Taster, as advertised on fantasyjobs4u.com. I enclose my CV for your consideration.
Cover letter body
What can you offer the employer? What qualifications, skills, and experience do you have that make you a great fit for the position? Why are you suitable for the job? What can you offer them if they employ you?
Be specific. Be, BE, specific.
They want to know what they will get from employing you, not a list of everywhere you’ve worked. Reinterpret your CV to meet the needs of the job spec. Re-read the job advert and connect your CV/resume to the ‘required/desirable skills’ on the ad.
It is fine to assume some aspects of the role, for example if they mention running training events, you can probably assume they may find event management experience of any kind desirable.
Going with the chocolate taster example….
My grounding in Confectioner’s College led to over 4 years’ experience within the candy industry, with a particular focus on tempering of chocolate. I have experience of sampling chocolates from around the world and have extensively studied flavours and ingredients.
In my current role as Chocotasting Manager at Chocolatey Endeavours Inc I established a new line of flavours which increased sales by 112% in a 6 month period. As a result company revenue increased by 39%.
So that’s what experience you bring, and what you can potentially do for the employer – in this case increase sales and revenue.
You can use a bulleted list or short paragraphs to add more info and explain any changes in career, anomalies in your career history, or add detail to anything relevant to the position.
Don’t overdo it. Two or three GREAT paragraphs are much better than rambling on at length. If it’s a TL:DR it’s probably heading for file 13.
Why do you want the job?
“I need the money” may be honest, but it’s probably not going to get you very far.
Reiterate what you can do for them and why you want this role.
I can bring my proven track record in the field of chocolate tasting to your organization and build upon your work and reputation to help Choctastic become the UK’s leading chocolatier.
With my prior experience I would be able to hit the ground running and add value to the company in a very short space of time.
“I want this job because I will be great at it” is what you’re attempting to convey.
Call to Action
Thank them for reading the letter and tell them to get in touch to arrange an interview.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my application. I look forward to meeting you to discuss the role further and will follow up with you in a few days.
Yes, assume that you will be meeting them. I don’t have space to go into language patterns and the meta model here but be presumptuous. Also don’t be passive about it – this ended by essentially saying I expect to hear from you and if I don’t I will be in touch.
Be professional and courteous.
If you know their name then use Yours sincerely. If you don’t then use ‘Yours faithfully’.
Sign it. Print it off and sign it. It’s a business letter.
If it’s going by email then an inserted signature is best, but a typed name would do. But go for the inserted signature.
Boom! You have a cover letter.
Uh oh, there are some pretty common mistakes that you need to avoid though!
Not customising the letter.
You need to rewrite this for every single job you apply for. Every single one of them.
Keep a template handy and edit it.
Make sure you change the details of the hiring manager, company, address, position…
Whilst you are positioning yourself as the right person for the role and making assumptions that they’ll be in touch, don’t be cocky about it and don’t forget to thank them for reading it.
Repeating your CV/Resume.
They have that; don’t repeat it word for word. Expand on the key points, tell them of a relevant moment in your career history where you made that massive sale, got the relevant experience, did the thing that’s so very relevant to this role.
Not using keywords.
Some cover letters are scanned by software to look for keywords that are relevant to the role. Read the job specification carefully and determine what those words might be and use them. (Hint: they’ll be in the job description!)
Being overly keen.
Don’t come across as desperate. “I REALLY WANT THIS JOB!!!” isn’t very professional and screams “I REALLY NEED THIS JOB!!!”.
Be enthusiastic, don’t be sycophantic.
Including a headshot.
Just don’t. It causes all kinds of problems for the recruiter due to employment laws etc. See ‘how to write a CV’ for the things you should not include.
Talking about weaknesses.
Not the time or the place. Do not undersell yourself. Do not draw attention to the stuff you’re crap at. Position yourself as the right person to take on this job and perform well from the start.
Talking about salary expectations.
Again, not the time for it. The role should have an indication of the salary when you apply, or it will be explained after the application process. This is something you would talk about at interview (or more likely second interview).
You could have the most incredible CV, perfect in every way. But if that cover letter is full of mistakes then you’re going in the bin.
Check it. Re-check it. Get someone else to check it if you aren’t confident in your spelling or grammar.
Using ‘I’ too much.
Don’t make it ALL about you. It’s what you can do for them. Avoid starting sentences with ‘I’ or you risk sounding self-centered.
And that my friends, is how you write a cover letter.
Pair that with a solid CV and get applying!
We’ll continue this journey down the job-seeking rabbit hole anther time with interview techniques, your LinkedIn profile, managing your personal brand, and gaining relevant XP to make you more employable.
Robin Bates – covering you with a cover letter
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