There has been much debate about the longevity of the cover letter, and whether we’ll continue to use this in the future.
After all, technology has changed the way we communicate – we’re far more likely to text someone than write a letter. Perhaps this goes some way to explain why corresponding in this way can feel like a difficult task. However, if there’s one thing you need to master on your job hunt, it’s this. Creating a good cover letter is still incredibly important and can make all the difference when it comes to securing an interview offer.
Don’t forget the basics
Take time to craft your cover letter and don’t forget the basics. Remember the reason for writing – to tell a potential employer who you are, why you’re interested in the position and why you should be hired. These three key things will form the basis of your efforts – it’s as simple as that. Once you have your first draft, check and re-check. Having taken the time to put down your thoughts on paper, it would be a shame if recruiters become distracted by grammar and spelling mistakes, which will stand out like a sore thumb.
Keep it short, clear and concise
Covering letters should be no longer than a page, and ideally less than 400 words – employers just don’t have the time to read more than this. Make their job easy by using clear language, which gets to the point and is easy to understand. You should also consider using key words. These are words contained within the job description. By including these, you’ll be showing recruiters that you’ve thought about how you match their person specification. When they scan your letter, they’ll spot this and are more likely to spend time reading your application.
Mentioning your qualifications is not enough. Your covering letter should go beyond this to outline how you’re the best person for the job – better than other candidates who may have the same qualifications on paper. When you mention the skills that set you apart, make sure to give some demonstrable proof. Don’t be tempted to copy and paste from previous applications, instead, avoid a generic looking application by doing your research on the company you’re applying to. Identify the things that inspire, enthuse and attract you, and write about these.
Don’t repeat information on your CV
The purpose of a covering letter is to draw attention to your CV, which contains the nitty gritty details of your education, work history and skills. With this in mind, it’s important not to repeat information. This is your opportunity to talk about the things that are more difficult to convey within your CV, such as your personality, your passions and motivations. Whether it’s writing about a recent success or describing what you enjoy about your current role, now is your time to show your human side, which will help you connect with recruiters.
Set the right tone
At times, it can be hard to find the right balance between formal and informal. In fact, the style of language that’s appropriate to use in your covering letter may vary between companies. Applying for a role at a large corporation will be different from filling out an application for a smaller start-up. Getting the right tone will show that you’ve understood the place you’d like to work at. So, take a look at their website, social media profiles and media communications to get this right. Although the aim is to impress, it’s important to come across as genuine. To do this, avoid using clichés and stick to statements that are provable – don’t say you’re the best person for the job when you don’t know the other candidates. Instead, focus on trying to prove this, which will only help to make you sound enthusiastic, committed and professional.
About the author
Kate Allen is the MD of Allen Associates, one of Oxfordshire’s leading independent recruitment agencies, that specialises in Marketing, Finance, PA/Admin and HR roles. They also have an office in London, specialising in Marketing, HR and PA/Admin roles.