When applying for a job, you might only focus on editing your CV. However, your covering letter could be the deciding factor for a hiring manager.
Indeed, some hiring managers may not even look beyond your covering letter if they’re not impressed. It’s essential to make a unique and memorable first impression.
Here’s how to create an effective cover letter:
Your covering letter is the first thing a recruiter or potential employer will read. It needs to grab their attention and motivate them to learn more about you.
Unlike your CV, you’ll be using full sentences for the most part. It should sound conversational and personal. You want some of your personality to shine through it.
Keep it brief and easy to read. The hiring manager will likely have a pile of these to read every day. They’ll be turned off by a lengthy and adjective packed letter.
A good rule of thumb is when it’s part of your CV, keep it to a maximum of two paragraphs. If it’s a separate document, a half page will do.
A generic covering letter which looks as though you’ve merely replaced the company name and job title is at risk of being thrown out. The more tailored, the better.
Before you start writing, do your research. Find out as much as you can about the company – more than just what it does.
Find out about their values, any projects they’ve done, partnerships they have, charities they support, etc. Read beyond their website. Look out for any news articles about them, lists they’re featured in, or any other relevant information you can find.
For example, if they support a charity you fundraise for, highlighting this can prove you’ll be a good culture fit for the company.
Seeing you’ve done your research will also show your interest in working for the company.
Your CV will tell the potential employer about all your experience and skills. Your covering letter should highlight only the skills and experience you have that match the job description.
If you want to clarify or provide more detail about any of your skills relevant to the role, do so in your covering letter.
Avoid listing generic skills and attributes. If they ask for a team player, don’t just say you’re a good team player. Tell them about the year-long project your team successfully delivered.
Being more specific by providing examples will make you more memorable.
A recruiter will have many cover letters to read, with the majority saying just about the same thing.
From your perspective, it might look like a great cover letter because it follows all the advice you’ve read. But for the hiring manager who reads 20 or more of these, yours might get lost in the pile.
It’s essential to keep your writing consistent with the company’s tone of voice. If the company is corporate and formal you should write in a comparable way.
However, you can be more creative in what you say to stand out. If you have any personal experiences with the company, such as being a lifelong customer, this is an effective way to grab their attention at the start of your cover letter.
If you don’t have any experiences with the company, write a sentence or two about how you chose this career path.
Your covering letter should not only be different from your other covering letters. It should also be unique to other candidates’ letters.
The last sentence or two will sum up why you’re a suitable candidate and invite them to read your CV.
It’s important to thank them for their time, but don’t be overly thankful. It could sound as though you’re desperate for a job.
The goal is to come across as a confident candidate who appreciates the time they are taking to consider you.
It is important to have a fresh pair of eyes look over your cover letter. Not just for spelling and grammar mistakes, but to also ensure it flows well and grabs the attention of the reader.
Have a friend or family member read the job description first, then your covering letter. Once finished, ask them for their initial impressions – how you came across, if it read well and if they would be inclined to read your CV.
If you’ve followed the advice above, you’re set to send in your memorable and impactful covering letter.
Although it’s only the first step in the job application process, it’s a crucial one to get right. First impressions do matter.