Some people will tell you that a cover letter doesn’t matter. And sometimes it doesn’t. But when it does count, getting it wrong can be a massive strike against you.
Ask a few recruiters and they may even let you in on a secret. A great cover letter can increase your chances at getting an interview if you have the relevant skill set. But a bad cover letter, or one that is filled with mistakes, sends the impression that you really don’t care and will send you spiraling to the bottom of the list.
Whether you think a cover letter is important or not, what harm is there in covering your bases? Great communication is less about you and more about your audience anyway, so for those who want one, make it shine.
Address an actual person
If you address your cover letters with a ‘Dear Sir/Madame’ or a ‘To whom it may concern’, then stop what you’re doing and pay attention to this tip. Take the time to find out who your cover letter will be received by and address them appropriately.
Read through the job ad and look for the name of a contact person. Search for the company on the Internet and browse their website to find the name of the appropriate manager. Or phone the company and ask the administration or HR team who you might be able to address your job application to. By writing your letter specifically for the appropriate hiring manager, you’ll be able to write with more focus and direction, and the person reading the letter will feel more respected.
Make the first line count
Use the first line to grab the reader’s attention. Be direct and tell them exactly why you want the job, and why you think you’re a great candidate. Don’t waste your opportunity to make an impressive first impression by simply listing your name and what role you’re applying for – that can be mentioned later in the letter.
Imagine you only had 20 seconds to impress a prospective employer. What would you say to grab their attention? Use this to write the opening line of your cover letter and convince the reader that they should continue to the bottom of the page.
Mention the job ad or where you heard about the position
The company that you’re applying to might be recruiting candidates for more than one vacant position within the organisation.
Be specific and mention what role you’re applying for, and how you became aware of the job opening. This is especially useful if you happen to have been recommended the role by a mutual business connection, or someone you know who already works within the company. Mentioning how you found out about the role will help the reader to determine how you fit into the company’s community.
Include details that you haven’t listed on your resume
If there are achievements or special skills that you haven’t listed on your resume, then make sure to list them in your cover letter. But ensure that you also provide an explanation as to why they’re relevant to the role you’re applying for.
Summarise your key strengths and the most relevant points of your resume in a couple of sentences, but be succinct as you don’t want your cover letter to be any longer than a page.
Don’t just copy and paste
You’d be surprised how many times applicants send out cover letters that have clearly been written for another company. It’s a big faux pas to send a letter that still has the name of the original recipient in the address section, or the name of another company in the body.
Tailor your cover letter for each individual job application so that it is relevant and specific to the role you’re applying for. And if you do re-use content from a cover letter that you’ve used somewhere else, then make sure that you have edited the document so that it doesn’t appear that way.
Make contacting you easy
Ensure that your cover letter is saved in a format that you’re sure the person receiving it will be able to open. Generally accepted formats are Word documents and pdf files, but be sure to read through the job advertisement carefully to see if the company has asked for a specific format or given special instructions for the delivery of your cover letter.
The first step in making sure that you can be easily contacted is making sure that your letter can actually be opened and read. The next step is to make sure that your contact details are clearly listed, and making sure that you have regular access to the phone number or email address you’ve provided.
Check for mistakes
Proofreading is vital in any job application. Make sure that there are definitely no typos or spelling errors. Have someone else read over your cover letter for you. Read it out loud to make sure that it makes sense. Ensure that the name and details of the person you’ve addressed the letter to are correct. And when you’re done checking, check it again.