Now you know how to write the perfect CV, the next question is what about those job vacancies that require a cover letter? (Not written your CV yet? Go back a post!)
Urgh, I hear you say, not a cover letter. Why do I have to write a cover letter?
Well, those companies who require a cover letter will use it as a pre-screening process before they even look at your CV. That means rubbish cover letter = CV straight in the rubbish bin! You don’t want to waste all that hard work you did perfecting your CV only for it to wind up in the shredder, so it’s time to write a cover letter that really sells your CV, because that’s what a cover letter is— it’s your way of getting the hiring manager to read your CV and compelling them to find out more about you.
So how do you write a good cover letter?
Firstly, remember that everyone hates writing them—you’re all in the same boat. For most people, writing a cover letter is an even less pleasant job than writing a CV! Why is that? Because most of us hate talking about ourselves, especially if we have to say how great we are.
So before you even start writing, you need to have the confidence that you can do the job you’re applying for. In fact, you can do it with your eyes shut. You’re not going to sound arrogant, you’re just going to demonstrate that you can do this job and do it damn well. Better than anyone else who’s applying.
- Know the company!
There’s nothing potential employers hate more than reading a cover letter that clearly demonstrates you know nothing about their company, and worse still, couldn’t be bothered to do a quick Google search to find out more about them. So take 10 minutes to look up the company and peruse their website so you can show that you’re a good fit for their mission, their values, and their organization.
They want to know you’re interested in working for them specifically. So if you love their products, tell them. If they’re interested in the environment, show your commitment to sustainability. If they’re heavily involved in charity work, emphasize any volunteering work you’ve done.
- Don’t be generic.
On second thoughts, there’s nothing potential employers hate more than reading a generic cover letter that clearly demonstrates you haven’t even bothered to write a new letter for this vacancy. I can’t stress enough that every cover letter should be different, so while you can start with a “template”, you absolutely need to tailor it to the specific vacancy that you’re applying for.
If you were paying a lot of money for a new suit, you’d want it tailored to fit you perfectly, right? Well essentially, that’s what this process is doing. You’re the new suit for the business, and they want the right suit for their business.
So the same as you did with your CV, go through the job vacancy and highlight the qualities and experience they’re looking for. Then ensure you demonstrate these characteristics and this experience in your cover letter. Mention any relevant work experience, education, life experience, training, or volunteering that make you suitable for the role.
- Don’t go overboard.
Remember less is more! They don’t want to read stacks and stacks of information at this stage, so limit your cover letter to less than one A4 page. The ideal is 3-5 short paragraphs. You don’t need to cover every requirement of the job description in your cover letter, just the main ones. Likewise, if you don’t have a skill they’re looking for, don’t mention it.
When you’ve finished writing, go back and remove any unnecessary words to make your sentences snappier and more concise. Avoid waffle.
- Be structured.
Unlike your CV, write in the first person, “I”, and use full sentences not bullet points. Follow the format:
- Dear… Start with the hiring manager’s name if the vacancy states it, or if not, “Dear Sir/Madam” is fine.
- What job? Tell them what job you’d like to apply for and where you saw the vacancy advertised.
- Why me? Use a paragraph to explain why they should chose you for the role. What skills, experience, and qualities do you have that make you a perfect fit compared to the job description? What achievements make you the ideal candidate for the role? Use your USP and quantifiable achievements that you discovered while writing your CV.
- Why you? Why do you want to work for that company in particular? What can you deliver for them? How can you improve their organization?
- Summary… In one sentence, briefly summarise why you’d like to apply for the role and why you suit it.
- Close… with “Yours Sincerely”, and your name.
Keep the style.
Maintain the same font as your CV so it looks consistent, and use a readable font size (11 or 12 is fine).
- Don’t forget the basics.
The same as with your CV, don’t forget to have a final read-through, proofread the letter, and get someone else to read it for you to pick up on anything you’ve missed. Like with your CV, read through your cover letter as if you were the hiring manager and ask yourself whether it would make you pick up your CV? If not, go back and try again.
If you’re really stuck, I can help with your cover letter via PeoplePerHour.