Writing a good cover letter can be one of the most difficult parts of the job application process. You may know how to structure your CV correctly, but the most efficient way of writing a cover letter can remain a mystery. We may struggle to know what exactly to cover, and what to ignore, and how to best relay this information to prospective employers.
There are hundreds of guides and templates online designed to help you craft a great cover letter. On the surface, these guides are incredibly convenient and useful. However, due to their popularity, they have the effect of making everyone’s cover letters read more or less the same. As such it can be difficult to get your cover letter noticed.
The solution? Do things differently.
There’re 4 basic rules for a good cover letter.
A great cover letter should do four things:
- Introduce yourself and your skills to the hiring manager.
- Explain to the hiring manager why you are best suited for the job. This is done by detailing your skills and experiences and relating them to the job in question.
- Provided extra detail to your resume, and clarifying certain details.
- Explain in detail the most relevant information of your resume.
If your cover letter does these four things, you are off to a fantastic start.
But for a decent cover letter, there is more to consider…
All the information in the cover letter should be accurate and relevant to the job in question.
Many people just send the same cover letter to different companies and different jobs. This is a deadly mistake, you should assume this will be noticed, so tailor each cover letter for each job.
Allow no mistakes in the cover letter.
Once you are happy with your cover letter, you need to spend a lot of time proof reading it to correct any mistakes in spelling or grammar…then proof read it again. Assume any mistakes you make will be seen and will reflect badly on you. It might help to have a trusted friend go over your cover letter as well as sometimes it can be difficult to see mistakes in your own work.
Also, consider if your cover letter is formatted correctly. Your cover letter should be formatted and structured like a letter, include contact information at the top, and address the recruiter directly by name.
Address the hiring manager by name, make it personal.
If you are lucky the name of the hiring manager should be in the job description. If not, you may have to spend some time researching, try Linkedin, as this will give you key information on the staff of a company.
Using the name subtly creates a connection between you and the hiring manager, and as such they will notice it. Think about it, if you were going through a stack of cover letters, will you pay attention to the one that addressed you directly, or one of the (likely many) cover letters addressed to “whom it might concern”?
So far we have covered what makes a decent cover letter.
We know you don’t want just a decent cover letter, so here’s how to go pro.
1. Follow the inverted pyramid structure when writing your cover letters.
With the inverted pyramid structure, you should place the most important, relevant information right at the top.
Having the most important information at the top ensures that it is the first thing the recruiter sees. As the recruiter usually has to deal with many cover letters a day, its possible that they won’t be able to spend much time on each cover letter, and as such, they may only give your cover letter a quick read, some information may be missed. In this case it is vital to bring the most important information in your cover letter to the front.
2. It’s important to tell the company why you want to work for them.
Consider what values the company seem to have, perhaps they have a long and interesting history. Imagine that you want to be friends with the company. If you merely tell them all about yourself then they may become disinterested, at worse think you self obsessed. Essentially you can’t make them thing you are only applying so you can earn money or benefits.
3. Also, show your passion and enthusiasm for the company.
When writing your cover letter you should consider using emotive words like “love”, for example “I would love the chance to work for this company” this will give them the impression that to you, working for the company will not just be another job for you but something you genuinely desire. Loyalty, knowledge, and passion are all very important traits that employers look for.
4. Choose a few attributes from the job description and focus on them.
Cover letters shouldn’t be very long, so if you try to cover every single part of their job description then your cover letter will be overly long. Less is more.
5. Always hit on the emotional side of the reader.
They are probably having a hard time going through all the cover letters and applications, so it could be useful for you to be sympathetic to that. Show them how kind you can be by perhaps wishing them good luck on the job search and wish them all the best.
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