Job hunting can be a pretty stressful, time-consuming business. Ultimately recruitment processes are designed to make sure that you find the role that’s the right fit for you and the company you’re joining, but that doesn’t always make them fun or pain-free. Whether it’s the application form, writing a CV or an interview, there can be lots of hurdles to jump over.
And bearing in mind that you're trying to stand-out from the other applicants, you want to put your best foot forward at every opportunity. Whilst it’s often overlooked, a cover letter can be a great way to make your case and get noticed. Simply because most people don’t make the effort to write a cover letter, it’s a statement of intent that you’re someone who is willing to go the extra mile.
What is a cover letter?
Writing a cover letter is about explaining to the employer why you want a certain job rather than sending the same CV to every employer. A covering letter shows an employer more personality and enthusiasm rather than stating certain facts and credentials which is primarily what an employer looks for.
How to write a cover letter
The first step before you put pen to paper (or keyboard) is to research the company you’re applying to and the role you’re applying for. Rather than sending out a standard letter, you’re aiming to write a letter which is unique for the specific opportunity you’re applying for. By including specific facts or information about the company (not just their name), you’re showing again that you’re someone who has an attention to detail and pride in their work.
Make an Impact
The most important part of your cover letter is your introduction. This is the first thing your potential employer will see. If you have a good introduction, your employer is far more likely to read the rest. The introduction should be professional therefore should start with, “Dear Sir/Madam(or the name if you know it), I would like to take this opportunity to apply for the…” and then note the position you are after.
Then try to summarise why this job would be exciting for you and how it matches your skills. Whilst your CV looks back at your experience, your cover letter can be forward-looking and so you can talk about further developing your expertise and specialist skills.
“I’m excited to enclose my application for XYZ, which I believe is a good fit with my previous 10 years’ experience in this sector including my specific ... skills”.
Dive a little deeper
Next is the main part of your cover letter. This where you briefly explain who you are and how your experience relates to the job role and why it is suited to you. You don’t need to re-write your CV but mentioning any specific skills or experience in your background is an effective approach. Also try to convey some information about your personal values and approach and how these match with the company you’re applying to.
“In my most recent role I have been working in XYZ project, solely responsible for budgeting, planning and delivery. This role was extremely faced-paced and required a high level of time management and prioritisation skills, something I feel will be essential skills for the successful applicant for this opportunity.”
Your cover letter should be no longer than a side of A4, and your closing paragraph should aim to convey your passion and excitement for the opportunity. Employers want to know that you’re enthusiastic about the role and how it fits with your experience. There’s no need to be too gushing, but a little positivity in this paragraph doesn’t go amiss!
“I’m excited at your new company initiatives in ABC and this fits with my values and career goals as demonstrated by XYZ. I’d love to be part of your team which delivers this.”
Finally let your employer know that he or she may contact you at any time using the details contained on the header of your letter, and on your CV, then finally end it off with your signature.
It’s not always easy to include a cover letter with online applications as there isn’t always space, but if you can attached it to your CV or application, it’s well worth doing. If you’re new to writing a cover letter, share it with a friend or peer to get their thoughts. It’s always better to test it outside of an application process rather then let a weak cover letter hinder your application.