What is a cover letter? Why do I need one? How is it different to my CV? Questions we’re sure you’ve asked yourself whilst embarking on your graduate job hunt.
In it’s simplest form, a cover letter is a supporting document to your CV which explains why you’re the right candidate for the role. It’s also an opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition and really demonstrate the value of your skills and experience.
Don’t know where to start? We’ve pulled together our top 10 tips to master your cover letter and bag yourself a job.
1) Research the role & organisation
- Use your investigative skills; find out what the organisation does and what their USP’s are versus competitors. Make sure you research who their competitors are too!
- Shape your cover letter around your research – it’ll impress the recruiter and demonstrate your interest in the role.
2) Always address your cover letter to someone
- If the name of the hiring manager isn’t in the job listing, contact the organisation and find out who you should be writing to.
- Still can’t get a name? Go with ‘To Whom It May Concern’
3) Just like a story, there should be a beginning, a middle & an end
- The opening paragraph needs to be short and snappy, telling the recruiter exactly why you’re writing to the. Also useful to let them know how you found out about the role.
- EXAMPLE – ‘I would like to be considered for the position of Digital Marketing Executive, as advertised on milkround.com‘
- Why are you the right candidate for the job? Your second paragraph should answer this question by highlighting the relevant qualifications and experience that you possess.
- Cover as many skills as possible from the job description in this paragraph – make a list and cross them off when you feel like you’ve covered each skill.
- What can you do for the organisation? What are you bringing to the table? Consider it an opportunity to brag about what you can do for them by expanding on vital sections of your CV.
- Recap and recognition; remind them why you’re the right guy for the job and thank them for considering your application.
- Sign it off ‘Yours sincerely‘ and your name.
4) Keep it short and snappy
- A cover letter should never exceed one side of A4. Why? 46% of employers prefer half a page of A4, 26% of which prefer it was even less than this.
5) No crazy fonts!
- When it comes to presentation, go with a simple and easy to read font which ensures the recruiter can easily scan through your cover letter.
6) Include practical examples
- When you’re bragging about how great you are you should always demonstrate the impact of your skills with practical examples.
- Performance based examples are ideal as they are quantifiable and proves your effectiveness.
7) Tailor it every time
- If you don’t tailor your cover letter to each job you apply to, you’re unlikely to progress to the next stage.
- Use the job description and person specification to shape your cover letter to bag yourself an interview.
8) Send as a PDF
- Avoid formatting errors with word docs by sending as a PDF – they’re also a locked document, meaning no one can edit your cover letter without your knowledge.
- Also, pretty much any device connected to wifi can download a PDF nowadays so no need to worry about that.
9) Proofread before sending
- As referenced in a recent article, The 10 Commandments of CV Writing, you should never send your CV or covering letter to a potential employer without proofreading it beforehand.
- Look out for spelling and grammar errors as well as formatting issues – due to the sheer volume of applications for each job vancacy, recruiters look for reasons to filter applicants out – don’t give them an excuse to rule you out at the first hurdle.