The purpose of a cover letter is to complement your CV by adding a more tailored and personal voice to your application. While your CV is there to demonstrate that you have the suitable skills and experience, your cover letter introduces your personality and demonstrates why this is the job for you.
In some ways, you can view a cover letter like a test, and unfortunately it’s one that a lot of people fail. A poor cover letter stands out for all the wrong reasons and can be the difference between getting the call you want or being passed over for another candidate.
This means that creating a cover letter may not be as easy as it seems on the surface. But there are a few key things you can do to make sure your application gets a fair assessment. Here’s our top five tips for creating a bespoke cover letter that will help boost your application:
Tip 1: Address it right
Find out the right person to address your cover letter to. Receiving a cover letter that is either a) addressed to the wrong person, b) the wrong company or c) to no-one at all, is the first common mistake people make. Hiring Managers are wary of job-seekers who apply the “spaghetti method” to their applications: firing off CV’s to any and all vacancies they come across hoping that one will stick. The first sign of this is seeing a cover letter that is addressed incorrectly.
Check the job ad for details on who to address your cover letter to. If there’s no obvious instructions on there, follow up with the organisation or recruiter and ask. Straight away you’re demonstrating two key skills: initiative and problem solving. Not to mention showing a genuine interest in the opportunity.
Tip 2: Show your motivation
Tell them why you’re interested in the role and what’s motivated you to apply. Why is this job for you? If you can’t answer that question, then perhaps you should be reconsidering why you’re applying in the first place.
Name the role and the organisation on your cover letter. Do your research! If you can name a specific programme or initiative of the organisation that interests you, even better because this demonstrates that you’ve actually done your homework and know who and what you’re applying to.
Tip 3: Let them know where you’re at
Don’t make them guess, explain your current situation. Recruitment processes can work to strict timeframes, and often there’ll be a specific date they need someone to start by. Being upfront about your current situation helps streamline this process. If you’re available to commence work right away, let them know! If you have a notice period, are going to be away or need to relocate, make sure you mention this.
Tip 4: Give a taste of what you have to offer
Include a brief snapshot of some key strengths and skills you’ll bring to the role in question, but don’t go overboard. Keep it short and relevant to the position. Study the ad and pay attention to keywords, especially when it comes to what they’re looking for in a candidate. Think about how those can be addressed in your letter but be careful with this. Transplanting keywords into your cover letter isn’t going to work if you don’t actually have that experience – being asked about a skill you’ve claimed but don’t actually possess is very awkward for everyone involved!
Tip 5: Go out in style
End your cover letter on a positive note but don’t get presumptuous. There’s some advice out there telling people to finish a cover letter by willing yourself into an interview. Lines like “I look forward to discussing this further with you in an interview” or “I will contact your directly to discuss my application next week” can put a hiring manager off. Don’t jump the gun and force your way into an interview. Instead reiterate your enthusiasm for the position and thank them for their time to consider your application.
The biggest thing is showing some personality. CV’s should be purely fact based, whereas your cover letter gives the opportunity to show a bit more of your personality. Still keep things professional, but don’t come across sounding like a robot either.
Some final words of advice:
- Don’t make your cover letter too long – we recommend no more than one page.
- Be honest and transparent – no false claims!
- Always spellcheck, and then get someone else proofread it for you too. You’d be amazed at how many simple spelling or grammar mistakes can sneak through!
- Always write your letter using a first-person perspective – this letter is meant to be from you after all!
- Send your cover letter as a separate word doc or PDF. Sometimes application portals will give you the option to either upload a cover letter or fill out a text box. Always go for the uploaded version if you can – text box cover letters don’t look very pretty on the other end!
Putting together a quality job application can take time and effort, but the pay-off is worth it. If you’re looking for more tips and advice on job applications, check out our resources page on our website.
Kirsty and Nikki