An end to the cover letter blues

pen and lettersWith all job applications now online, and your personal profile on Linkedin, you’d be forgiven for thinking the good old cover letter is a thing of the past. But they are now more important than ever.

When putting an application together, always remember the 30 second rule. On average, employers spend 30 seconds looking at each job application, and with CVs becoming increasingly similar in style and content, the simple fact that you've taken the trouble to write a cover letter will make you stand out as a candidate.

Your cover note is your chance to put across additional points that you couldn’t put on your CV. It’s also a chance for your personality to shine through, something employers really want to see.

If you’re specifically looking for a part time or flexible role, there's no need to mention this (and never do so, unless the job you’re applying for has been advertised as such). It's generally better to wait until you get a job offer and then negotiate your working pattern.

We’ve put together some key tips to help you create the cover letter you need for interview success.

Start it all with a call

If you have any initial questions about the role, or you need contact details, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the employer. It shows that you are confident, motivated and interested in the job.

Don’t be generic

Get to know the organisation and the job spec. A one-size-fits-all letter will be dismissed by an employer as too broad. Instead, tailor each letter and think specifically about what you can bring to that company, and why you are the best person for that role.

Tell a story

Your letter should have a structure. To help with this, you may want to think about the story-telling format and have a beginning, middle and end. For example:

Opening paragraph:

  • Who you are and the role you are applying for. If you spoke directly to the person responsible for applications when you made your initial call, then do mention this.
  • Explain briefly why you’re a good match for the job.

Second Paragraph:

  • Brand ‘You’ time. This is your chance to sell yourself and outline what you can bring to the job. Remember, there could be hundreds of candidates applying, so don’t be afraid to stand out.
  • Demonstrate what experience, skills or qualifications make you the best person for the job. Be sure to address the key requirements the employer stipulates in the job advert or job description, and use the same keywords.
  • Include specific evidence of your achievements where possible.

Third paragraph

  • Explain what attracts you to this role, for example in what way it is a great opportunity for your career development. 
  • Say why you are interested in working for the employer. If possible, reveal some knowledge of the organisation.

Sign-off paragraph

  • Reiterate, briefly why you are a great fit and interested in the role.

Don’t write a novel

One page, A4, is more than enough. Although your letter is your chance to shine, it pays to be selective and stick to the most relevant points for that specific job. Never forget the 30 second rule when putting together your cover letter - be clear, concise and to-the-point.

Don’t send your letter as an attachment

Your letter should form the content of your application email or cover message if applying through a job site - put it front and centre for the employer. Otherwise, there is a risk they won’t see it, or have time to open the attachment.

Finally…

Good luck!

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