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The Perfect Cover Letter

Written by: Katherine Cooke Design by: Ellen Stanton

A cover letter acts as a brief introduction to you, and why you would be a great fit for the job you are applying for.

It is relatively easy to put time and effort into one if you are only applying to a couple of jobs, but when you are sending out 20+ applications a day because you need money to live, and you need to write a cover letter for all of them, you start to lose the will to live just a tad.

Is a cover letter actually necessary?

Writing a cover letter is important and required…

  1. if the job application says to include one

  2. if you’re applying directly to someone and know their name

  3. if you have been directly referred for the position

Writing a cover letter shows you are serious about the job. It will be the first thing hiring managers will see when they pick up your CV from a pile of job applications. Approximately a mere 47% of job applications come with a cover letter attached. In writing a cover letter you are already putting yourself at an advantage here. They are especially necessary if you need to explain employment gaps or if you’re changing careers- it is not easy to explain all that with just a CV.

It must be said that many recruiters don’t read cover letters, however it is always good to include one with your application and use it to explain things your CV might miss. Even a quick glance at your cover letter shows your attention to detail and your communication skills- two hugely important skills.

Cover letters also give applicants the opportunity to show their achievements in a more detailed view, and show why they should be hired over other applicants. In some cases, it can also make up for not having the desired experience.

Let’s consider this further, what should I include or leave out? What should I do or not do?

Address the cover letter to someone; refrain from using To Whom it may concern/Sir/ Madam.. If there isn’t a better option, you can aim for something slightly specific e.g. Editorial Assistant Hiring Manager.

Include a great opening line– you don’t need to mention your name, but it is good to mention what role you are applying for.

Make sure you have actually read the full job advertisement- if they ask a question, answer it, and make it clear you have done so. If necessary, use words from the original job advertisement.

Go beyond your CV– there is no point simply regurgitating the information that on your CV. Expand on those bullet points to say why you’d be perfect for the job and the company.             

Think

  1. What exactly did you do to tackle one of the responsibilities you have mentioned on your CV?

  2. How did you accomplish this bullet point?

  3. What is it about your personality, passion, or work ethic made you especially good at getting the job done? Include details, be specific in what you have done e.g. add a nice statistic

  4. Talk about the skills you have developed and can display.

Highlight the right experience. Don’t include lots of irrelevant information. Show that your experience/ skills match the job role. Be specific to the job role, it is okay to recycle a few strong sentences and phrases from one cover letter to the next, but don’t send out a 100% generic letter.

Decide what you want to be the main focus. When you know you have the potential to do the job- but your past experience doesn’t straightforwardly sell you as the ideal person for the job- try focusing more on your skills instead.

Use bullet points when necessary- It makes it easier to skim read and draws attention to the right parts of your cover letter.

You don’t need too much on your education- what hiring managers care most about is work experience and skills.

Don’t apologise for missing experience– If you say, “I am aware I have no relevant experience,” you are immediately saying you are irrelevant, avoid doing this.

Say how you would be great for them– Rather than how great the position would be for you and your CV. Why are you excited about working with the company? Show that you understand their goals.  When you have a clear idea of the company’s needs, it makes it easier to prepare a document that shows how you can meet those needs

Stick to a side of A4- It is only supposed to be a brief introduction to who you are, the position you are applying to and why you would be a great fit. It should be 3-4 paragraphs long.

Finish strong– Like an essay, reiterate how you would be a great fit. If necessary, now would be the time to say you would be willing to relocate.

Consider the format- Make sure it looks professional and everything is spelled correctly. Use features such as spell check.

Think about how you will send your cover letter- You can attach it as a PDF file, or type it into the email, or even do both!

There are certain details a cover letter should contain. Omitting a cover letter could cause your CV to be rejected if the person doing the hiring considers the cover information important, but attaching one to your CV or application form is never going to hinder your chances.

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