CREATING A GOOD COVER LETTER
Apply for a job
Stand out from the crowd
If you could only see the desk of most company recruiters! They have lists of vacancies, piles of applications, numerous CVs, lists of interview dates and times to organise, lists of who has been seen and what the feedback is, trays of letters to tell people the outcome of their interview and several files for every type of decision, so they can adhere to data protection. Even that isn’t the half of it, so a good cover letter is vital to give you half a chance of getting to the top of the mountain of applications and actually getting short listed for an interview.
Firstly if you intend to send a hard copy rather than a virtual copy, have a good think about the paper you are going to use. Good quality, slightly off-white paper will stand out from the standard, cheap as chips, copy paper most people will use to print their letters on. It is worth the investment in quality paper just to have a small point of difference from the hundreds of other applicants.
Choose a font that is clear and appropriate to the type of company you are applying to. Very few people like to see ‘comic sans’ on the cover letter, it shouts frivolity and many people dislike it, so, don’t take the chance of being declined for an interview just because you use a font that turns the interviewer off!
It is important to use the correct salutations and sign-offs in your letter. If you start your letter with Dear Sir /Madam you should end the letter with Yours faithfully. If you start the letter with Dear [name of person] you should end the letter with Yours sincerely.
Try and stick to a clear, brief format of no more than 3 paragraphs to introduce your CV. Don’t be tempted to repeat your CV as a story in your cover letter, keep the letter brief and to the point. If your cover letter is longer than 3 paragraphs you should firstly read and edit it as sharply as you can. Take out extra words and change sentences to be focused and to the point, you can also make the margins smaller to give yourself more space. Remember, you want the letter to be easy to read, so don’t make the margins too small. You also need space between the greeting, between each paragraph, and after the closing.
Make sure you customise your letter to the company and the job. Always use the name of the person recruiting for the job if you have it. Most recruiters can spot a standard letter a mile off, so take the standard letter template and make it your own by adding specific information and detail about how you will add value to the role. Your cover letter is your opportunity to sell your specific skills and experiences to match as closely as possible the job you are applying for. Use words from the advert to show what you can bring to the role, for example if the advert says ‘customer interface experience’ use a short example of how you have exceeded a customer’s expectations, remember the context can be education, volunteering, work etc. While it might sound tedious tailoring every letter you send, it is worth it in the long run. It’s one way to stand out from the crowd and get in front of someone so you can really sell yourself in the interview.
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