The word cover letter is enough to make most applicants run the opposite way from their job search. It’s not enough that candidates have to write a perfectly crafted CV, but also a formal letter expanding on their key skills and experience too!
We all know how time-consuming cover letters can be. After all, every application requires a uniquely tailored approach for each company. While it might seem a tedious task, getting it right is essential.
Recruiters receive masses of applications every day, and your cover letter needs to stand out. The New Year is a great time to get ahead and write the perfect cover letter that will land you your dream job.
Still not convinced? Don’t worry – we’ll explain this in more detail below.
Research is key
While not very exciting, research is essential when writing a cover letter. It’s also an important part of the overall job hunting process. Before you even pick up the pen (or keyboard), make sure you’ve done some detailed research first. Think about the following before writing:
- Who are you addressing your cover letter to?
- What does the job description say – does it mention any particular skills or experience?
- What’s going on in your industry, are there any recent news stories?
- Is there any news out there about the company you’re applying to?
- What are the company’s aims or goals?
- Who are the main competitors or clients of the business?
Include the essentials
You’re now at the stage where you can think about starting the letter. But don’t delve in straight away with the writing. Have a plan in place first of what you need to include. You need to think about:
- Why the position interests you
- What your most relevant skills and experience are
- How these skills will contribute to the business
- How will you include a call to action that prompts a response from the recruiter
Tailor the cover letter (to the role and organisation)
While a timely process, recruiters want to see that you’re passionate about working for their company – not just any firm that offers a similar job! Obviously, this will be time-consuming for you, but it’s essential if you want to be shortlisted for, and ultimately land, the job.
Think about how you can show your potential employer that your skills, experience and qualities can fit into their role. You need to prove that you’re the candidate to hire and that you’re an exceptional, talented individual.
So now you’ve done your research and prepared your plan, you want to know how to structure the letter – right? A cover letter should resemble any formal business letter. So this means placing your address in the right-hand corner and starting with the recruiter’s name and ending with ‘Kind regards’. Here’s the format in more detail:
[Your Address Line 1]
[Address Line 2]
[Address Line 3]
[Company’s phone number]
Application for [name of the role]
Paragraph 1: The opening paragraph needs to say why you’re writing to the company, what job you’re applying for and where or how you found out about the position.
Paragraph 2: This paragraph needs to be about you, and expand on the important details in your CV. You then need to give a summary of any skills or education you have that is relevant to the role.
Paragraph 3: Here, you want to impress the recruiter on your knowledge of the company and the sector. This is the part where you need to explain why you want to work for their company and that particular role. Make this completely specific to the company and pick out a few key reasons – whether you admire their work ethic, or have followed their journey closely over the years.
Ultimately, you want to show the hiring manager not what they can do for you, but what you can do for them. Remember, they are looking for someone who will fit in with the company culture and their core values.
Paragraph 4: This is your last paragraph so end it proactively! Push the boat out there and say ‘I look forward to hearing from you’, or let the recruiter know your availability for a callback. Finally, thank them for reading your letter.
Submitting it digitally
Nowadays, emailing over an application is extremely common. But what is the etiquette for this?
First of all, carefully read any instructions the employer has written. For example, if they want the letter attached as a Microsoft Word document, then do this. If nothing is specified stick with a PDF; it means that no matter what device or system the recruiter uses, they will still be able to open your letter.
If anything isn’t specified, you could also choose to copy and paste the letter from word into the email. Doing so means the recruiter has easy access to your letter to increase your chances of being shortlisted.
What length should my cover letter be?
Simply put, your letter shouldn’t exceed one A4 page. Understandably, this can be difficult when you want to include all of your experience and qualifications. But, you need to keep it to the point to avoid sending the recruiter to sleep.
The final proofread
So, you’ve finished writing your perfectly tailored cover letter. But you’re not quite finished yet. It’s officially time proofread again and again (and again!). A small grammar or spelling error could risk your cover letter being thrown in the ‘no box’. Ask a friend or family member to lend a fresh pair of eyes to give your letter another read.
Now you should be well prepared and set to land your dream job in 2018. For more career advice and application tips, check out our top 10 essential guidelines to follow when writing a cover letter.