The importance of the cover letter in a job application cannot be emphasised enough. It is usually the document that forms the decision as to whether your CV is worth looking at in further detail. It is surprising then that many job seekers often pay little attention to the cover letter, often sending the same basic letter out to multiple positions, or not including one at all. Taking the time to craft a strong cover letter for every application you make could drastically improve your chances of your application progressing to the next stage. Here are the key points to include in any cover letter.
Always send one!
This might sound silly after I’ve just explained how valuable the cover letter is, but there really is no application process in which it is ok not to include one. Even if you think you’ve already included every possible detail about yourself on their application form, the cover letter is a simple courtesy. It is your chance to formally introduce yourself, a basic politeness if you consider that the person you’re introducing yourself to is about to read through reams of information about you. It also explains briefly which vacancy you’re applying for, or which area you are enquiring about. The person reading your cover letter will be forming important decisions about you, so it is your chance to make a good first impression.
Don’t rewrite your CV
The cover letter should, unless otherwise stated, be short and sweet. All of the required information the employer needs to decide if you’re right for the job should already be included in your CV or application form. Rather than rewriting your CV or including any extra details you couldn’t squeeze in, your cover letter should include a taster of your best “selling points”. Think of it as a blurb for a book – you should make the reader want to find out more.
First Paragraph and last line
Your first paragraph should be succinct, to the point and draw the reader in. Make the reason you’re applying clear, don’t waffle or add unnecessary detail. Your writing skills will also be scrutinised here so bear that in mind. Include something that puts you ahead of the other applicants, be it a skill, previous experience or how you fit the role. Structure your cover letter to include a “call to action” in the last sentence, requesting that they contact you for a meeting or interview.
Talk about the company
Relating your skills and aptitude to the company ethos. Do some research and explain why you want to work for such an organisation, and even where you think your skills will be beneficial. Flatter them, tell them what impresses you and what attracted you to the position within their company.
Reflect your personality
Whilst it is a formal letter and should retain a professional tone, you can include detaisl that reflect your personality. Referencing a hobby or interest and relating it to skills required for the job is one good way to show your individuality. Try to convey your enthusiasm and passion for the industry, and include lots of positives, omit the negatives.
Relevant and brief
A well written cover letter should be brief yet detailed adequately enough to allow the reader to form a positive opinion of you. If structured well it will briefly reference every aspect of your CV in order to encourage the reader to focus on each section.
If possible, address your cover letter to a particular individual. It is worth trying to find out who will be reading your cover letter as you can research them individually and gauge an idea of their seniority, experience and even interests. If not, use formal addresses i.e. “to whom it may concern” or “dear sir or madam.”
Sign the letter
Whilst it may seem old fashioned in the digital age, a signature is a seal of professional authenticity.
Finally, thoroughly check the structure, spelling and format. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put in if you’ve spelled the name of the company wrong. This is your only chance to make a good first impression, so make it count!
Olivia Lazenby writes regular blogs for www.jobsinmanchester.com with tips, hints and advice for job seekers.