Clients often ask me ‘Should I still send a cover letter with my CV?’ or ‘What is the point of a cover letter?’
Of course my answer is always ‘Yes you should’ (unless the employer has specifically requested CVs only). The cover letter is a chance for you to show some personality and some passion for the role and the organisation. Think of it as a sales pitch that will market you and your abilities in order to get an interview. If you don’t do one or simply use it to say ‘Please find my CV attached’ you are missing an opportunity to convince the employer to interview you.
How to make your cover letter stand out:
- Show your research
Address it to the person who is recruiting to make it personal ( you can find out via LinkedIn or ringing the organisation and asking the receptionist or HR). And include information you know about the company when stating why you want to work for them. For example, ‘Your latest project won an award for sustainability, and I would like to part of an organisation that prioritises the environment’ or ‘I understand your strategy is to move into xxx market and I would relish the challenge of contributing creative and innovative ways to achieve this.’
- Make it match
Choose the 3-5 top skills or requirements of the job and highlight how your experience matches these so the employer can begin to see how you can add value. It doesn’t matter if it repeats some of what is in your CV. Remember to be aware of the language and key words they use and incorporate these when describing what you do. Be specific and make it impressive.
- Be enthusiastic
Address why you want the job and let your enthusiasm shine through. BUT always to remember it needs to be about how you can demonstrate your value to the employer. Don’t include things like the job is closer to home or how it will help you achieve your career aims, instead highlight how you can build on your experience to deliver more for them and how your passion for the project, topic or area of work can bring new ideas, etc.
- Keep it short
It should be no more than 1 page unless they ask for a personal statement type cover letter which can be 2 pages. Make your font a minimum of 11pt and include plenty of white space to make it easy to read.
- Be positive
Don’t highlight anything you are worried about, for example, your age, lack of a particular requirement or referring to why you left your last job, as you simply give the employer a reason not to shortlist you.
- Check it
Make sure your grammar and spelling, plus the company name and address are all correct otherwise you’ll be heading for the ‘no’ pile.
- Structure it
Make it easy for the employer to read so break it into 3 sections:
Intro: Say where you saw the job advertised and why you want the job
Body: Highlight why you would make an excellent candidate for the role, use examples and make it interesting to read.
Closing: Include why you want to work for them and confirm your enthusiasm to meet for an interview
Don’t forget your CV also has to work hard for you, get more tips on how to create a CV with the WOW factor.
What else can I use a cover letter for?
You can use a good cover letter to make On spec applications, where you are inquiring about possible positions. This type of letter requires more research and should focus on what you can offer that they might be interested in, and how you can add value. It should also include how and when you will follow up with them.
Or you can use a cover letter as a networking tool where you might be requesting information and assistance with your job search rather than an interview. This needs to be tailored to the person you have identified could help you.
Cover letters are alive and kicking, and if you make time to do them justice they can be a really useful tool in your job searching arsenal. So put the effort in and make them work for you. If you need help creating one for the job you really really want then get in touch and we can work on it together.
Photo courtesy of Kaboompics.com