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You’ve seen the perfect job advertised and want to give yourself the best possible chance of securing an interview. So you rush off to update your CV with all your recent experience, new skills and latest hobbies.
But before you can send it over to the hiring manager or business contact, you need to write a cover letter. And that’s when you hit a brick wall. What are you supposed to include? How light-hearted can you be? And should you opt for “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To whom it may concern”?
The bottom line is writing a cover letter can be daunting but it’s so important. Get it right and there’s a good chance your CV will get reviewed. Get it wrong and you might not even get a reply (let alone an interview).
[Related reading: 8 tips to help you nail that job interview - https://www.polytec.co.uk/whats-new/8-tips-to-help-you-nail-that-job-interview.html]
So how do you write a cover letter that gets you noticed?
First and foremost, your cover letter will make more of a positive impact and you’ll look like a better candidate for the job if you’ve done your research. This should include research about the company, research about the role and, if it’s not one you’re familiar with, research about the industry.
The beauty is that it doesn’t need to take long either. Start by scouting around on the company’s website and social media channels. You’ll be able to glean a lot about the history of the organisation and find out what they’re currently pushing via their social channels.
Mentioning a few of the things you’ve learnt in your cover letter shows you’ve done your homework and even though it didn’t take you long, it can be enough to impress the person reading.
Remember, your CV and your cover letter are not one and the same. So don’t simply regurgitate the contents of your CV in your cover letter – that’s not what it’s for!
Instead, use your cover letter to showcase your personality and explain why you are interested in the position being offered. Pick a few of your skills that you think are relevant for the role and highlight how you’ve used them in the past to good effect. This not only shows your strength as a candidate, but also that you’ve read and understood the job description/requirements fully.
Use your cover letter as a tool to pique the recipient’s interest in your CV and encourage them to take the time to read it (your CV). While we’ve said that you shouldn’t repeat what’s in your CV, you should absolutely reference bits and pieces from it to highlight why you’re a strong candidate for the role.
Hiring managers and recruitment consultants inevitably receive dozens of emails with CVs attached every day. If they open your cover letter and are hit with a wall of text, there’s a good chance they’ll be put off from the start.
Keep your cover letter short and concise. Avoid waffle and only include things that are relevant to the role. Never go off on a tangent in an attempt to come across as original. The key is to capture the reader’s attention quickly and tell them what they want to hear e.g. why you are a good fit for the role, what excites you about the opportunity and what you bring in terms of skills/experience.
This tip follows on in the spirit of the last and is designed to help you stand out in a crowd of candidates.
Now, because hiring managers and recruitment consultants receive lots of application emails every day, daring to be different and introducing a little wit/humour can help engage the reader. Obviously, you don’t want to be too informal, but a conversational tone can often deliver more of a punch and show your human side.
The final thing to do before you hit ‘send’ is to thoroughly spell and sanity check your cover letter (it goes without saying that you should do this for your CV too). That’s because an otherwise good cover letter can be severely let down by spelling mistakes and poor grammar. It’s not only disappointing to read, but suggests the sender (you) wasn’t conscientious enough to go through it before you fired it off.
Furthermore, there’s no excuse nowadays for not spell and sanity checking a cover letter either. Most (if not all) popular word processing applications have built-in spell checkers and there’s a bunch of online grammar checking services available too.