Many job seekers wonder how to write a cover letter and whether or not you should even write one.
Do hiring managers/recruiters read them? And what does a good cover letter look like?
I’ve written an article about tailoring your resume to get more interviews and you can read it here.
My advice is to always write a cover letter - you want to give yourself as much of a chance as possible to wow them.
I see lots of cover letters on a daily basis in my recruitment job, and unfortunately a lot of them don’t add much to the candidate’s application. They are often too long, way too generic and if they do have achievements listed, they aren’t relevant to the role I am recruiting for.
Let me give you 4 top tips on how to write a stand-out cover letter that works.
Don’t reiterate your resume
The hiring manager is likely to have already looked at your resume, so don’t rewrite it. Mention something in a cover letter that they wouldn’t know about you from your resume. A common mistake is for job seekers to simply repeat what they were responsible for. Instead, expand on what you’ve written on your resume to paint a fuller picture of your skills and achievements that would be relevant to the job that you’re applying for.
If you’re struggling what specific examples you could include in your cover letter, ask yourself these questions:
- What was your approach when dealing with responsibilities mentioned on your resume?
- What did your boss/colleagues/client say you were very good at? What about your skills or personality made you especially great at getting the job done?
- What would you say to someone when telling someone a very short story about how you’ve accomplished a particular achievement mentioned on your resume?
Find out the hiring manager’s or recruiter’s name
You won’t always be able to get this info but why not contact the company to try to find out the hiring manager’s name? You’ll stand out from others who didn’t put in the extra effort.
Keep it concise
Keep your cover letter short - no more than half to ¾ of a printed page. Succinct is a lot better than a long essay.
If you only had 15 seconds to tell the prospective employer what they needed to know about you, what would you say?
Put THAT in your cover letter.
All you need to include is:
- Why you want the job.
- What sets you apart from other applicants (highlighting specific accomplishments).
- Thank you (and a request for information on the next step in the hiring process).
Personalize your cover letter
Your cover letter needs to show, at a glance, why you’re a suitable candidate for the job. Recruiters view job seekers who send out generic cover letters as unmotivated – so if you don’t take the time to customise your letters, you might as well not bother sending them at all.
Use the cover letter to demonstrate how your skills, experience, and education are relevant to the requirements of the job. Pick 3-4 key qualifications listed on the job description and be very specific in terms of how your experience is a match.
If you use a template, customize it to each job posting that you’re applying to. Don’t be afraid to add a little of your personality and values (keeping in mind the tone of the job posting) so that the hiring manager can get an idea of the person they will be hiring.
A lot of job seekers feel it is too much work to customise their resume and cover letter for each position to which they are applying. However, putting these tips into action will set you apart from the rest and show the hiring manager that you’ve gone the extra mile to research and align with the job’s requirements and company’s values.
Margaret Buj is an Interview Coach and Talent Acquisition Manager with international recruitment experience. Since 2006, she's helped thousands of people around the world get hired, promoted and paid more.
She's also been featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, interviewed for The Financial Times and Management Today and is the author of "Land that Job" e-Guide.
She's spoken at career events & conferences and has done training sessions or workshops in London, Monaco, Athens & Saudi Arabia. For free job search resources, please visit www.interview-coach.co.uk