So, you’ve decided it’s time for a career move and you’ve begun your job search. You’ve already spent time tailoring your CV to the job in question and have also researched the company (we hope!). But you go to submit your application and realise that you also need to include a cover letter, but you’re not sure what to write and how to make it stand out. Fear not! In this latest blog, we give you everything you the cover letter ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ to help your application success.

What is a cover letter and what should it include?

A cover letter is, in effect, a supporting statement to further convince the hiring manager that you’re right for the role. Think of your CV as providing the facts, your cover letter will bring that information to life. It’s important to take your time over it, as it could make all the difference as to whether you get an interview or not.

As the name suggests a cover letter is still a letter, so treat is as such – you need to follow letter writing formalities. For example, be sure to include your name and contact details at the top as well as the name of the company or hiring manager, along with the date. Address the recipient as ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘Dear Mr./Ms./Dr. Jones’ (always try and include a name; if unsure, you can check with HR, the company’s website or LinkedIn).

Writing a killer cover letter

Now we come on to the main and most important section of the letter, which is where you’ll add the eye-catching material that will make your candidacy really shine. The structure of the letter will consist of a short intro, a couple of paragraphs to highlight why you’re the best person for the job and then a conclusion. Let’s look at each in turn.

You want to start by saying why the role appealed to you and also why you want to work for the company (your research should help you answer those questions). Be sure to convey your enthusiasm right from the off as that will make the hiring manager want to read on.  

The main part of the cover letter will focus on how you meet the requirements of the role. The trick here is go over the job description and ensure that you cover all their key points. When talking about your competencies, focus on both your technical and interpersonal skills. If you have the language, IT skills or specific qualifications they’re looking for, then say so.

Your potential future employer also wants to know if you’d be a good fit for their team, so saying that you’re a team player and that you relish working in groups is important (even if this isn’t mentioned in the job description). Quantify achievements if you can. For example, detail how much you exceeded your targets in a previous role or the amount of cost savings you generated in your last position.    Make sure you end on an upbeat note. Reiterate how much you’d like to work for their company and the contribution you can make. The key here is to reinforce your character traits and attributes with enthusiasm and humility. The last and critical step is to do a final check. There is nothing more damaging to your application than basic spelling or grammatical errors.

Standing out from the crowd

Looking to give your application even more ‘oomph’? You might want to think about a video cover letter too. If you do decide to record a video, dress appropriately, check the audio quality and keep it professional. It shouldn’t be any more than a minute or two in length. And perhaps get the opinion of a friend or family member before sending.  

One final tip. For both written and video cover letters, always think about what you can do for the company. Your past achievements are important but it’s how you can contribute in the future that matters most. Remember, there is a fine line between arrogance and confidence.  

Follow our top tips for writing cover letters and you can make 2021 a year to remember with a rewarding new career.

Finally, the Do’s

  • Make sure that you have done your research
  • Remember to follow letter writing etiquette
  • Use a sans serif font such as Arial (11/12 points)
  • Highlight your relevant skills and experience
  • Show your enthusiasm for the role and company

And the Don’ts

  • Cover letters should be no longer than one page
  • Avoid colours and over-formatting (bold, italics etc.)
  • Never be rude or critical of anything or anyone
  • Resist the temptation of saying how great you are
  • And don’t forget to check for any typos!

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