How to Write a Cover Letter
A Cover Letter is a vital document to include with your CV when making job applications. It will provide your potential employer with further information about your skills and experience and will be relevant to the job you are applying for. It is therefore important to send one even if the employer does not state that they require a cover letter in the job description.
What is the importance of a Cover Letter and what should be included?
While your CV will cover everything the employer needs to know, such as; employment history, education background, achievements etc., it will not go into any depths about your personality or passions. This information can be very important when having to choose between two candidates with similar skills and experience. A well-written cover letter will put flesh on the bare bones of the CV; it will stand out above the rest and will ideally reveal an insight into your work ethic, your suitability for the job and any other fundamental personal details. It will identify you as having the qualities the job calls for.
Therefore, it is essential to thoroughly read through the job description, picking out any areas that you can see your personality would fit, and elaborating on that detail. By doing some research, you can also determine the employers business ethics, background and hobbies. This will allow you to subtly relate yourself to the employer and will put you in a better position to catch their attention. A cover letter is so important and should not be underestimated; each time you apply for a different job, you will need to tailor your cover letter accordingly.
Writing the Cover Letter
It is recommended that your letter is short and sweet; brief enough to be skim read in less than ten seconds. The longer your cover letter is, the more chance the employer will get bored reading it – and you want it to be unforgettable.
Always address your reader professionally, for example ‘Dear Mr. Joe Bloggs’. Many vacancies won’t specify who the hiring manager is, so do some research to find out who to address it to, ensuring you spell their name correctly. This will again show your passion as you have evidently spent time doing your research and have an interest in the new company you are applying to.
Then clearly outline your intention to apply for the job; incorporating the job reference number so as to ensure the recruiter/employer has no confusion (they will often be covering many jobs at a time). After you have detailed this, you should spend the next paragraph elaborating on what we covered in the last section of this article, along with examples of why you’re the person they are looking for. A cover letter doesn’t require a list of achievements (that is what your CV is for), it is about showing how your past successes have given you the required skills to fulfil the new job role. This should take up the largest chunk of the letter.
You can also use the cover letter as an opportunity to explain any gaps that you might have in your CV, turning it into a positive as oppose to a potential issue. Some examples might be: having children, travelling (mention cultures and perspectives), family issues, sickness etc. It is imperative to be honest here, as if you state that you had a sickness, they speak to your previous employer and find out this isn’t true, you will have almost definitely blown your chances of getting the job.
Common Cover Letter Mistakes
• Failing to address the letter to the named individual
• Failing to target your letter to the specific job you are applying for
• Repeating information from your CV
• Making the letter too long (should not take up any more than three quarters of a page)
• Over explaining and rambling
• Defining what the employer can do for you, as oppose to what you can do for the company
• Forgetting to proofread your letter and sending it with lots of typos and mistakes
Some extra tips
• Keep it brief and relevant – always make sure everything you include in your letter is 100% relevant to the job you are applying for, and keep it very brief.
• Subtle flattery – it is often a good idea to subtly compliment and flatter the company, for example ‘you are the industry leader’.
• Reflect your personality – ensure it reflects how motivated and enthusiastic you are.
• The company – it is essential to show that you have done some research and understand what the company’s goals and expectations are, this requires going beyond the job description (this will also demonstrate your enthusiasm). You can show them how your skills can help them to achieve these goals.
- Jess Potts