Your cover letter is just as important, perhaps more so than your CV when applying for a job. This is because your cover letter needs to attract attention and get a recruiter to actually take the time to read through your CV. So you need to make sure that your cover letter is excellent so that you can make the most of every opportunity.
How to write a great Cover Letter
The majority of job adverts receive at least 50 applicants, and for high demand posts this can be significantly more. Put yourself in the position of a recruiter and consider how long you will take to read every application. The chances are you’ll spend just 5 minutes at the most, and possibly as little as 30 seconds deciding whether you will seriously consider or reject a candidate based on their covering letter.
While writing your cover letter, keep thinking why you are better than other candidates, why should the employer choose you? Once you know the unique talents that make you better than the competition, make sure you get this across to your reader clearly and concisely.
Every letter needs to have contact details on it including the following so that the employer knows who they are considering and how to get in touch with you if they want to ask questions or invite your for an interview. Include these at the top of the page:
Your contact details: Name; Address; Telephone number; email address
Full employers address including Name of employer and their title; Company Name & Address
Make sure you address the letter to a specific person. If the details aren’t in the advert then ring and ask for this.
The first paragraph
The first line under the recruiter’s name will be the subject heading. This should state the position that you are applying for, and any job reference number for the employer to quickly identify what you have applied for.
Your first paragraph will be short and to the point – do not waste time. Explain why you are writing to the recruiter, including information such as:
• The job you are applying for, and where you heard about the vacancy;
• Include names of individuals that you know in the organisation or links that you have, e.g. “Peter Kale suggested that I apply as he considers I have the required skills,” or “Further to my recent work experience in the department I consider I have the skills required to do the job.”
• Include any other reasons why you want to work for this company. This paragraph should not be more than 3 sentences, or it simply won’t get read.
The second and maybe third paragraph
Explain why you are the best candidate for the job. Give perhaps three examples of times you have excelled in your current role using the skills required in this new position.
Introduce this section with a summary of the job you have completed which is most similar to the role for which you are applying, and then provide the examples of when you have done well in this position.
Don’t write too much just to fill up the page. Keep the information short and succinct so it reads like a headline rather than the full story. This will keep the reader interested and make them more likely to flick over to your CV to find out more about you.
If you have a lot of information to cram in then spread this over two paragraphs, perhaps one for each previous employment that you have carried out the required tasks.
The final paragraph should thank the employer for taking the time to read your letter, mention your CV enclosed, and state that you are looking forward to hearing from them about an interview. You can also state here any reasons that you might be out of contact (away of business for a few days or on holiday) so that they know when you would be available.
Finish off with a “Yours sincerely,” then leave some space for your signature and type your name. Unless you intend to email your application then you should sign the letter yourself and not just include a scanned/printed signature.
Just as every job description is rewritten for each post, you must make sure that your cover letter is unique to every job that you apply for. Take time to read through the job descriptions, person specifications and job advert to understand what the employer is looking for, and then write a unique letter for every application. If you send the same letter for each job you simply won’t pick up on the employer’s preferences and you’ll miss the opportunity to show your potential in the position.