When applying for jobs, writing a cover letter for each and every job you apply for can seem tedious. Do employers even look at cover letters or simply just glance over your CV? Unfortunately this isn’t something you’ll find out. However, if your CV is fairly similar to another candidate’s CV, a brilliant cover letter can make all the difference between who gets an interview and who gets thrown into the trash. Job seeking is competitive as ever, and you need to really show your worth to get a foot in the door. Follow our really easy tips on transforming your cover letter from dull to extraordinary.
This probably seems very obvious, but it’s essential. Spelling mistakes are easily made when we’re in a hurry to quickly apply for a job before it closes. Rushing your cover letter and having it littered with mistakes will cost you an interview. If you have time, it’s a good idea to write your cover letter and look at it again in an hour. You’ll be surprised with what you find.
- Show an understanding of the role
Do you have any key skills that you’ve seen on the job specification that you can translate into your cover letter? Be careful of just quoting the job specification and saying you have all of those qualities – this is unoriginal and careless.
Do you have any extra skills or talents (maybe obtained from a hobby, volunteering or previous work experience) that will really make your cover letter stand out? Try to find something that isn’t listed on the person requirements of the vacancy. This also applies to using a word from the job specification and simply using a similar word to describe yourself (e.g. changing ‘eager’ to ‘keen’).
This is good advice for many reasons, but for cover letter purposes, research shows that you’ve invested your own time into the company already and you know your stuff. If you can quote their recent expansion or their rebrand (and make it relevant to the role you’re applying for) it will give you an edge over many others who won’t bother.
If you’re really desperate to get a particular job, it’s easy to read and read your cover letter until it no longer makes sense. Being picky is a good thing, but realise when you need to just send it off. The employer won’t be analysing the cover letter anywhere near as you will have done. They’ll scan over it, look for key skills and facts about you, see if you’re passionate and make a decision. The process probably won’t take them any longer than a couple of minutes.
Was the name of the person who’s recruiting for the position listed in the job vacancy details? Is their name in their email address? If so, use it. Don’t use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ if their name is there in black and white. It shows a level of carelessness. If you don’t know the person’s name, don’t be afraid of phoning up a company and finding it out. Cover letters that are addressed directly to people are more effective. It means the right person gets your letter and you’ve made it more personal to them.
- Formal letter rules apply
In today’s modern world of brief communication, it’s easy to forget those old-fashioned letter writing rules we learnt years ago. You’re not sending the recruiter a Tweet or Facebook message (unless you are, then in which case a cover letter containing 140 characters is no mean feat). A good letter must have your corresponding details at the top, a date, and should end with ‘yours sincerely’ (not ‘faithfully’ unless you’re using ‘Sir/Madam’). If you’re posting the cover letter, be sure to sign it. Avoid using casual phrases and colloquialisms.
- Look forward to hearing from them
A charming idea is to emphasise that you’ll be looking forward to hearing from the employer. Why? Because a lot of applications are sent every day to thousands of companies. They won’t always reply to everybody. If you have shown passion and enthusiasm in the role and that you eagerly await their reply, they may be more inclined to follow this up with you, even if the answer is no.
Every employer is different and will look for various characteristics from a candidate. You won’t always get the answer you wanted (see here for our article on how job rejection can actually be a good thing). If you know that you have truly done your best in applying for a particular role, then there’s nothing more you can do. Cover letters might sometimes seem a bit pointless, but if you follow all of these simple tips, you may just beat another candidate to the interview stage.
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