Posted on 14/7/2021
A cover letter is a unique selling tool when applying for your next role. The accuracy and detail that you provide will set you up for a successful interaction with the hiring manager, and with any luck, a face-to-face interview to further sell your skills and experience.
Here are 6 tips to help improve your cover letter:
Cover letters should be succinct and to the point. That means you’ll really need to think about the content you include and make sure the experience you outline is relevant to the advertised position, and in particular, the position description. We recommend two pages maximum. Any more than that, and you will lose the attention of the hiring manager or the recruiter as they will have numerous cover letters to review as part of the screening process and a limited amount of time to complete this task. If there is a contact person listed on the job advertisement, it can be helpful to call or email them and ask what criteria is important to address within the cover letter.
Avoid using the same generic cover letter for each application. The cover letter is your “sales” tool, it’s the reason a recruiter or hiring manager will view your resume and call you for an interview. Ensure that you demonstrate how your skills are relevant to the specific role and use examples that show what you’ve achieved. Articulate why you’re the only person capable of doing this job. To this end, dot points are a great addition to your cover letter as they are eye catching and draw in the reader as they scan your letter for the important and relevant information.
Most employers want to see passion in a cover letter. Why this role? Why this business? And why this position is right for you at this point in time? Once you have addressed these key areas, connect this with your key attributes and experiences. Taking the time to speak to these areas within your cover letter is a really important factor in whether your application will progress to the next stage of the process, so don’t miss out on this opportunity to showcase your motivations and what you could bring to the role if you were successful in winning the position.
This is your chance to use your creative license to stand out from the crowd. Something we see candidates often confuse is including their mission, values or career goals in their resume rather than their cover letter. This approach takes up valuable real estate from their resume, which should strictly be a functional document conveying your skills and experiences. Instead, the cover letter is the best place for these statements and conveying your motivation to work with the hiring organisation. Another tip is to add some subtle colour highlights to the font to make certain sections of your letter more enticing or use italics or bold for key areas of interest. We always recommend saving your cover letter as a PDF file so that the format doesn’t change when viewed on different computers or when printed.
Always refer to the job title and/or application reference number for each job application. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for the hiring manager or recruiter who often have multiple job vacancies at any one time. Another common mistake is that candidates often forget to address their cover letter to the hiring manager in question. If a name is provided at the bottom of a job ad, address it to that person. Ensure that your personal contact information is also provided on your accompanying cover letter.
Check for grammar and spelling mistakes, then re-check again. A cover letter is often your first impression to a potential employer, so take your time to make it perfect. Mistakes signal that you’re unprofessional and lack an eye for detail. The same goes for your CV, attention to detail is a common trait that employers want to see. So, to give your application the best possible chance, proofread carefully before hitting the submit button.
Matthew has been an executive recruiter and business manager for over 15 years, developing his skills both locally and internationally.
Nicole has over 15 years’ experience in the commercial and social impact space. She is a skilled marketer, adviser and strategic communicator.
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