How to Make Your Cover Letter Stand Out
Cover letters are a much-neglected component of any job search. Accordingly to one survey, half of recruiters see cover letters as being as important as the CV itself. Yet how much time do you devote to each cover letter? Applicants often rehash the same cover letter for several applications, which can really jeopardise chances of being invited to interview.
There are two types of cover letters used in job hunting: Speculative and Advert-Responsive Letters. This blog post will focus on advert-responsive letters. Most companies will request such a cover letter alongside a CV in the first stage of the application process – they are essentially the first test that the company is setting you.
Think about the purpose of the cover letter
Your cover letter is a vehicle for you to elaborate on the relevant skills and attributes detailed in your CV, while allowing the reader to gain an insight into your personality. It sets the tone of your application, so it will pay dividends to give it the time it deserves. The goal of a cover letter is to inspire the reader to turn over enthusiastically to read your accompanying CV. A poorly written cover letter will get your application off to a bad start and might even discourage the reader from even reading your CV.
Think about what you want from your next job
We believe that there are two matches to be found and secured in the job application process.
The obvious one is related to whether the candidate fits what the employer is looking for – we’ll get onto this later on in this blog. The second, and often neglected one, is whether the role, environment and company match with what the candidate truly wants.
When preparing to draft any cover letter, it’s important to have an honest and clear view about what you want in any given role, and in what kind of environment you’ll be able to flourish.
Thus, before setting off on drafting your cover letter, write a list of the key criteria that must be present in any job that you would be willing and happy to undertake. If a job has been advertised and you are debating applying, don’t waste your time if it doesn’t fit these criteria. It is essential to think about what is important for you before considering whether you are right for the job.
Do Your Research
It is critical that you know as much as you can about the company you are addressing your cover letter to. This may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many well-qualified candidates send the same cover letter to several companies. This not only means they haven’t tailored their skills and abilities to the specific role and company, but the recipient might also see a lack of preparation as an indication of future behaviour.
Some things to include:
- Sector and sub-sector within which the firm operates
- Goods and services it provides
- Company’s mission
- Geographies in which it operates and the number of staff it has
- Senior management and ownership
- Company’s declared values
This is by no means an exhaustive list; the more research, the better. This will also be great preparation for your interview. The more you know about the company you are applying to, the more opportunity you have to impress.
What You Have to Offer
At the most fundamental level, the only reason why anyone gets hired is that the recruiter believes they will add significant value to the company. Thus, it’s important to know – before you start writing – what value you can bring to the table.
Thus, conduct a ‘Skills and Attributes’ audit. This is a list of what you can bring to both a role and company. Job advertisements usually contain information relating to the role itself – duties and responsibilities – and the type of candidate they are looking for – qualifications and experience. Bearing this in mind, use your cover letter to emphasise why your skills and experience not only match what they are looking for, but also make you the perfect candidate for the position.
The Nitty-Gritty Details
- Opening: Make sure your opening address is correct. If you have a contact name, use ‘Dear’ followed by their title and surname. Never use only their first name or full name. If you don’t know their name, the correct form of address is ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
- Closing: If you opened your cover letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, end with ‘Yours faithfully’. If you addressed your letter to a named individual, end with ‘Yours sincerely’.
- Create a professional looking letterhead
- Include the recipient’s address if you are posting your cover letter
- Include a date on the right hand side
- Length: No longer than one page of size 11 font
LinkedIn: Stephen J A Wright