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Since you have impressive know-how on CV writing from the past days, it is time to expand your familiarity with cover letter writing too. Thus, for today we answer the most common cover letter related questions to make sure you recognise the purpose of a cover letter and most importantly the way how to write one that will make you shine through.
A cover letter is your opportunity to express your personality a little. In a CV there is no space to introduce yourself on a personal and detailed level.
This is the function of the cover letter. In many ways it is an outdated and obsolete entity, nonetheless, it is far more often than not necessary for a job application. The original function was for when we used to send CVs in the post. Back then, looking for a job wasn’t as easy as pinging across an email with an attached CV.
The role of the cover letter (so named because of its original role as the cover page of a posted CV) was to explain exactly why you were sending a CV. It also specified which position you were interested in, as a big company would likely have several available vacancies at one time.
Whether you think it necessary or not, the recruitment world is one where everyone is on their best behaviour, and formalities, obsolete as you may think, are often the difference between two strong candidates. If the competition is playing by the rules, you’d be very brave to go against the grain. This first step is to make sure your CV is looking on point, and then get started on that cover letter!
Your cover letter is your opportunity to make your application look more distinctive to the company. In short, it provides some context to your CV and explains why you are applying. It should not - I repeat not - be a copy of your CV. Your cover letter should only enhance your application, not summarise what you've already provided in the application. By the time recruiters get round to reading your cover letter, they will likely have already read through your CV. They want to find out more about you and hear your voice through the cover letter. This is the first real impression of who you are that you will be giving them.
We have put together an infographic of some basics to remember about your cover letter.
It is important to note that sending a generic, impersonal cover letter is counterproductive. The whole point of the cover letter is to explain what you can bring to the company in the specific role you are applying for.
So we’ve established that a cover letter is a good idea. But the question that so many candidates struggle with is: How long should my cover letter be?
The common worry is having too short a cover letter and thus appearing to be making little effort.
Our biggest piece of advice? Avoid lengthy, boring text at all costs. Stats show that recruiters prefer a half-page cover letter to a full one. There’s nothing like a big chunk of unbroken text to put off potential employers. You may put them off even reading it altogether if it looks like too much time and effort to read. It’s all about getting the balance right.
Remember that your cover letter is not your CV. This is your chance to introduce yourself as a person, convey why you want to work in this position, and precisely why you are the perfect candidate.
Too many candidates feel that the cover letter is simply a further opportunity to big themselves up. Tell the company what appeals to you about them and the position. Also, providing some specific details about the company will show you know who and what you are applying to, making your cover letter more specific to the position. No one wants to feel like they are reading a generic letter that has likely been sent to plenty of other companies.
Simply telling them what your skills are isn’t enough. You need to apply your skills to the company. In other words, tell them why you will be an asset to their company.
Using measurable skills and stats is a great idea to give the recruiter a concrete example of just how valuable you would be to the company. It's unlikely when you tell the employer 'I was the best employee in my former company' they'll take your word for it - you need some solid facts to back it up. For example, using website traffic, sales or conversions would be a great way to show off what you've achieved in previous positions.
Getting the balance between seeming desperate and seeming too carefree is tough. Use phrases like, ‘The prospect of performing in this role genuinely excites me.’
People want to work with nice people. Therefore you should maintain a professional but kind tone throughout the cover letter. Your cover letter should show your voice, and give an idea of who you are as a person. Whilst remaining formal, try and find a way to show your personality in it.
As mentioned above, this includes fonts and paragraphs. Make sure your sentences aren't too long or convoluted - your application is likely to be one of many, recruiters don't want to spend half an hour reading it.
Something as simple as a silly misspelling could cost you an interview. Taking a couple of minutes to double-check will always be worth your while. Having lots of little mistakes in your cover letter will show carelessness, and employers won't believe you are very serious about your application.
Taking time out to travel, get back into education or look after kids are all very normal reasons for gaps in your CV. However, not explaining lengthy gaps in your career can be concerning to employers if they're not explained! CVs aren't really the place to explain these gaps, instead, put them in your cover letter where you can explain what you've learnt from these experiences and why they'll add to your strengths as a candidate.
Yes, we've already said this a million times, but it can't be stressed enough - cover letters are meant to explain why you would benefit the specific company you are applying to. If you send a generic cover letter, it will be blindingly obvious to the employer. Make sure you show you care about this application and you want this job.
Now that you read these essential hints, you surely know what a good cover letter should look like so go ahead and start your first draft. Come back to these tips once you are done writing your cover letter and look over the content to ensure all key elements are present.
Next up, we need to make sure your Social Media is as ready as you are! Social Media plays a huge part in the recruitment process and whether a recruiter decides to proceed with your application or not, so let's make sure you are ready to go. Come back tomorrow for our Social Media Job Search tips!
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