Top tips for writing the perfect cover letter
Elite Executive’s Eva Grabner describes the importance of cover letters and provides tips on how to make yours stand out.
In my line of work, I see a lot of cover letters. In fact, I use cover letters as a way of shortlisting candidates very quickly. Every one of our company adverts will ask an applicant to provide a cover letter. Those that don’t, well .. into the ‘No’ pile they go! Why? Well because if you can’t read a job description and follow a basic instruction, are you the kind of person I want to put in front of my client?
What’s with these cover letters? Are they necessary? Yes, they are. Some hiring managers consider them to be the most important part of your application. And while it would be easier to let your resume speak for itself, if that was the case then you would completely miss an opportunity to tell prospective employers who you are, highlight why they should hire you and stand out above all other candidates.
Look at it this way - at best it will make you stand out from the pack, at worst it can make even the most promising candidate seem like an uncreative cut-and-paster. Sadly, the vast majority of them read the same: Regurgitations of resumes that ramble on repeating the obvious. Would you read one of those if put in front of you? No? I didn’t think so and neither do I.
The role of your cover letter is to ensure your resume gets read.
Job applications are scanned in seconds by a human eye or a piece of software. In both cases the reader is looking to see if your skills and experience match the criteria detailed in a job ad.
Ready to get started? To make sure your cover letter is in perfect shape and stands out amongst the others then follow these few painless tips:
- The first step is to actually read the job advert. Go through it with a highlighter or pen and mark the key words used by the employer/recruiter. As long as you can back up your claims, try to use these words in your cover letter.
- A cover letter should not be used to regurgitate your resume, it should highlight why you are perfect for the job in just three or four paragraphs.
- Tailor the cover letter to each job and if possible personalise it using the relevant manager or recruiter’s name. If it’s not outlined in the advert then call the company and find out who the hiring manager is.
- Use simple, clear language and in the same font and style as your resume.
- The opening paragraph should clearly state what job you are applying for and how you believe you are suitable for the role.
- Paragraph two should tell the reader why they should be interested in you, this is where you expand on those key words they have outlined in the advert.
- A third paragraph could highlight a career achievement or tow that are relevant to the job.
- Finally, close the letter politely: “Thank you for taking the time to read my application, I hope to have an opportunity to meet with you in person and discuss how I could contribute to your team”.
- Last, but not least, it is vital that you ask a friend or family member to proof read the letter before you send it. Spelling and grammar mistakes are not acceptable when applying for a job.
There is nothing worse than receiving a standard letter or one where the applicant has forgotten to change the name from the last employer they have applied to, so take the time to triple check these details.
To show how serious you are about your career and your job search, take the time to apply to each position carefully.
Don’t just send your resume out to every job advertised and remember - keep track of where it goes and to whom. It’s an important piece of your working existence and should be treated with the respect it deserves.
Now go forth and write those perfect cover letters!