The job market is getting more fiercely competitive by the year, or the day as it sometimes feels, and so it’s really key that you stand out from the crowd if you want success. Your C.V. can help you do this (and that link will tell you how), but really it’s the cover letter which does the heavy lifting; all positions will require you to fill an application form, or provide a resume, but few ask directly for a cover letter. Going this extra mile can really do you favours in the job market.
What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is an additional document attached to, but distinct from, your C.V. during a job application. It differs in that rather being an overview of your education, skills, and qualifications (which a good C.V. will be), a cover letter is a way to make your case, so to speak, in a more direct and persuasive way.
To put it simply; a cover letter is your way to stand out from the crowd quickly, and effectively.
Do I need one?
Well, if the position you’re applying for directly asks for one yes, but I’d make the case that, unless the employer specifically states that you shouldn’t, you should generally include a cover letter.
A cover letter lets you show your future employer that you’re serious about the job; a cover letter shows that you’ve put in the extra effort, you’ve done your research, and you really do want to be there.
Writing a Good cover letter
A bad cover letter will scupper your chances the same way a bad C.V. will, so it’s key that you do it well. There’s no formulaic way to write the best cover letter for every situation, but there are some things that you should generally include. They are;
- Your name and personal details
- The role you wish to apply for
- Why you wish to fill that role, for that company (this is a good time to show that you’ve done your research)
- What you can offer the company
- A closing statement which thanks the recruiter, by name if possible, for their time.
If you want to distinguish yourself further you should see if you can refer to the recruiter by name, and rather than simply padding what’s in your C.V. you should try to make up for its flaws. For example, when writing a C.V. you should account for “dead time” briefly (i.e. state you were studying, volunteering, etc), but in your cover letter you can make the case for how this period of unemployment has improved you as a candidate.
I started to get the most responses from my C.V.s, and job pitches when I stopped giving them a run down of who I am, and started to treat it like an elevator pitch. This is your 60 seconds, so to speak, in which to convince the employer that you are the candidate you want. You’re not asking for a favour, you’re selling your skills, your expertise, and your time so don’t apologise, and don’t list your weaknesses (in either your cover letter or C.V.) as this is all about getting a first bite. You can frame your areas for improvement as opportunities at the interview.
Tailor your pitch to each company, and make sure your style suits the business itself. Experiment with word choice, and think about the kind of terms that are going to appeal to each employer. Corporate employers, for example, may be looking for stiff, brusque, professionalism, whereas a small, sustainability focused clothing business may react better to a more bohemian feel, and less industry-based jargon.
As always, remember to proofread before you send; nothing kills a cover letter (or C.V., or sales pitch, etc) like poor spelling or grammar.