The cover letter is your sales pitch. It’s your chance to tell the employer why they should give you the job. The CV is pointless without it so if you’ve been writing “Please find enclosed my CV” and ending your email or letter there then stop now. The cover letter gives you the perfect opportunity to stand out from the crowd in a way that your CV cannot. It’s quite simply crucial. But how do you write a great one?
The chances are the hiring manager has received a lot of applications and the fact of the matter is that they can’t read every one. A great cover letter means you have to make what you say count. The employer is going to quickly sift through them so you’ve got about 20 seconds to make an impact. That’s 20 seconds to make whoever’s reading want to continue reading. So let’s start from the beginning.
Before you even start writing you want to do some research. Research the company, their history, their culture etc. You need to know exactly what the company does and what its mission is. Hinting at this knowledge in the cover letter is the perfect way to let the employer know you’re interested in the company and can take the initiative. Then you need to research the role you are applying for. What profile are they looking for? You can then use this information and the right terminology to describe yourself. Doing some research and making a plan before you begin will make it much easier to write effectively.
Now to the most important aspect of the cover letter, the beginning. As I said you’ve got about 20 seconds to make an impact, so that makes the start of the letter the key. The opening paragraph should be short and hard-hitting. Explain why you are writing and where you heard about the offer. If you heard about it through a contact at the company then mention that person’s name as a personal referral can prove very beneficial.
The second paragraph is where you answer why exactly they should hire you. Discuss your professional and academic experience, but only mention the things that are totally relevant to the job that you are applying for. This should not be a list as you want the letter to flow and show your writing skills. Now go back to the job description wherever you have seen it advertised. Try to include how you have shown each desired characteristic in your past experience and do the same with the job responsibilities.
Now for a move into the future. What can you do for the company? Outline your career goals, again keeping relevant to the job you’re applying for. This is another opportunity to expand on your CV and include your research. For example you can mention the company’s goals for the next year and how you can help them achieve that.
The last paragraph should be some form of initiation of contact. Mention that you would like an interview, at their convenience of course. Do not bring in things such as money as it is often interpreted negatively. However, some offers will ask you to include salary expectations and in that case you should include a broad range. Just as the beginning of your cover letter is key, how you close it is essential too. Finish with a “Yours Sincerely” and signing your name.
Finally, here are some key things to remember when writing your cover letter:
- Try not to sound arrogant or boastful as this is a particularly undesirable trait.
- Do not use the common phrases that everyone uses. For example, saying you are dynamic tells the company absolutely nothing about you.
- However, do use buzzwords. As I have said you should use the job description when writing your cover letter. Include buzzwords that will catch the eye of an employer.
- Try not to exceed 4 paragraphs or make it too long. No one wants to read an essay.
Remember all this and you stand a chance of standing out from the crowd and getting that job.