Cover Letters are a means of conveying your interest and suitability for a role by providing employers with details about yourself, your skills and how you’d best fit the company. It’s a way of embellishing upon your CV and adding a personal touch to your application, hopefully impressing the reader enough to invite you to an interview. Here’s how to make your Cover Letter stand out:
Where to begin?
A Cover Letter is typically treated as a preface to a CV, which means employers will look at this first when receiving an application.
If you know the name of the hiring manager, address it to them personally. If you don’t, use Sir or Madam (though ensure these aren’t signed off with Yours Sincerely; use Kind Regards instead). These are becoming an archaic form of address, however, so exhaust your search before settling for impersonal address. Try their website first – there’s usually a meet the team section - followed by LinkedIn.
In the opening paragraph introduce yourself, clarify the job and company you’re applying for, and state your interest. Opening lines can vary depending on the nature of the company so it’s worth looking into the tone of their brand and adapting your approach to grab their attention. Some will admire the less conventional approach while others will respond better to a traditional format.
The first paragraph should be short and introductory. The bulk of the Cover Letter will be more detailed, split into smaller paragraphs as each new point is made, finished by a short summary paragraph.
Don’t repeat your CV in your Cover Letter
Use your Cover Letter as a way of embellishing upon your CV.
It’s likely your CV contains plenty of bullet points and doesn’t go in-depth on your experiences, which is why the STAR format is useful to consider: explain the situation (S), task (T), action (A) and result (R). Focus on the skills they’re looking for and phrase them as questions that need answering:
How have you showed creativity?
When have you worked under pressure?
What leadership skills do you have?
Ultimately a Cover Letter provides you with the opportunity to answer the questions posed in the job advertisement. Essentially, why should they hire you?
Use the internet
Most companies have an online presence and will likely post company updates, case studies, and news of interest – it’s a great way to find out what their interests are and what they’re focused on.
Use this to your advantage.
Your Cover Letter is a great way of aligning your values to theirs to show that you’re a great fit for the team. If they’re showing a strong push towards environmentally friendly practices, let them know you’re impressed by their commitment and that it matters to you, too; if they’ve recently won an award, commend their efforts and reinstate your interest in contributing to a company that is recognised in the industry.
Employers will likely receive tens if not hundreds of applications, so use what you can to your advantage and make your Cover Letter stand out from the crowd.
Don’t explain a lack of experience. Only focus on your strengths and achievements. You might not have direct experience in certain areas, especially if you’re trying to join a different industry, but you will have transferable skills and experience – utilise those.
If you’re struggling to relate your experiences, skills like communication, teamwork, discipline and time management are important in most working environments. Express your eagerness to learn new skills and take on challenges but don’t warn employers ahead of time what you’re lacking.
A Cover Letter is a way to impress, not moderate.
“Brevity is the soul of wit” – William Shakespeare
Or: less is more. It’s important to put all that you want to say on paper and then edit it to make it more concise. Stick to the one-page rule using short paragraphs throughout (block text is off-putting).
It’s worth the time and effort to ensure it looks and reads well; if an employer gets bored, they’ll toss your application aside. Let someone else read through it to check for grammatical errors and comprehensibility before sending it off.
Same Cover Letter template, different versions
Edit your Cover Letter for every job you apply for, to better fit the requirements. As tempting as it is to send the same one repeatedly, consider the fact employers are wanting to see excitement and enthusiasm over their role and company – and it’s obvious who has spent the time and effort researching company values.
Likewise, if they’ve stated the importance of one skill over another, cater your application towards it; provide an example or two and focus on how you’ve used it to great effect.
Follow the same format but cater it towards individual job descriptions.
It takes time, patience and research to write a good Cover Letter - but know the pay-off is worth it!