The job market is often really competitive. Many candidates simply take the scatter gun approach to applying for jobs – they’ll click apply on every job board to any job (no matter how irrelevant).
It causes no end of frustration for recruiters (trust me on that one), but ultimately for job seekers it means you have even less time to grab the recruiter’s attention.
So, you have to make your application somehow stand out from the rest.
How do you do that?
Well, let’s assume for now that you’ve put a brilliant CV together, and you’re ready to start applying for a few jobs. Your CV on it’s own though might not be enough to make your application stand out. This is where the covering letter enters the arena.
It’s an opportunity for you to personalise an application, address the key requirements that the role is looking for, and generally fill any specific gaps that relate to the role that aren’t on your CV.
Here are my top 8 covering letter tips:
Covering Letter Tips: 1. Always send one
Ok, so I maybe stating the obvious here, but you will be surprised at just how many recruiters can be swayed by a really good covering letter.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, you have to do everything in your power to gain an advantage over your competition. Demonstrate that you are serious about the vacancy you have applied and that you have took the time to write a ‘bespoke’ covering letter.
Sending one puts you at a huge advantage over those who haven’t. It shows that you’ve taken the time to consider the role versus someone that simply fires off CVs to every online job, and it actually proves to the recruiter that you’re bothered about that job.
And that means a lot when you’re looking for reasons to rule people out at the first stage of selection (which is often a ruthless process).
Covering Letter Tips: 2. Bespoke Content
A big no-no with covering letters is to use the same content from one letter to another. You must avoid a simple copy and paste exercise.
I understand that this can be really tempting when you are applying for positions through several job boards, but if a generalised letter is the best you can do, then you may as well not bother in the first place.
It is vital that you address the covering letter to the specific person who is looking after the vacancy. Always include the job reference and job title of the vacancy and make sure you tailor your letter to the company and the vacancy you are applying for.
Treat the advert that you’re applying to almost like an exam question. It will outline exactly what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate.
Personalise your covering letter to show how you did whatever the advert asks that you’ve done. You may want to emphasise some career history and key achievements that relate to the job you have applied for, but remember that a covering letter should be punchy and not long-winded.
If you do not tailor your CV for every application, this is especially important.
The person reading your application wants to read how and why you could do the role they’re recruiting for. Give them a reason to rule you in rather than out.
Covering Letter Tips: 3. The Structure
Right, the meaty part! I’ve listed some bullet points below. Follow these guidelines and your covering letter should make the desired impact:
- 1st Paragraph: Kick off the covering letter by stating why you are writing, including the position and where you saw it advertised.
- 2nd Paragraph: Explain what interests you about the vacancy.
- 3rd Paragraph: Describe why you would be asset to the business, explaining your strengths, skills and why your experience and previous achievements would marry up perfectly to the opportunity.
- 4th Paragraph: Refer the reader to your enclosed CV for further information.
Make sure somewhere in the document you’ve reiterated your contact details, just in case (you never know). Remember, you don’t want to give anyone a reason for ruling you out.
Covering Letter Tips: 4. Sell yourself
Don’t be bashful when it comes to selling your achievements and work history.
Pick out a couple of relevant examples to the opportunity, even if these examples are on your CV and make sure you explain the relevance of these to give them maximum impact.
Recruiters love stats and numbers. So if you hit 215% of your sales target, or if you increased efficiencies for the business by 67.8%, shout about it. Put the key numbers in bold if they’re particularly impressive.
Covering Letters Tips: 5. Reference the company
You will have (hopefully) researched the business as part of your preparation, and this should give you the ideal opportunity to include something in your covering letter which explains why you are interested in the organisation and the position.
Avoid generalisations and instead write specifically about why the products or services the company has to offer have impressed you.
I appreciate there’s a bit more work in this, but if you do it you’ll really impress the recruiter.
Covering Letter Tips: 6. Reflect your personality
The covering letter should illustrate how interested and enthusiastic you are to grab the vacancy. Therefore, try and avoid any negative comments and pack the covering letter with dynamic, acting verbs for each skill you are explaining:
- Research – analysed, clarified
- People skills – collaborated, communicated
- Teaching – instilled, motivated
Covering Letter Tips: 7. Why me?
Consider why you are perfect candidate for the role. What makes you worth considering? Why do you consider yourself to be better than every other person that’s applying for the same role?
Make sure you emphasise your positive assets such as education, skills, accomplishments and how all of these relate to the position you have applied for.
Covering Letter Tips: 8. Closing
As you finish your covering letter, make sure you finish with a specific statement of just what your next step will be.
If you are planning to follow up with a telephone call, be specific as to when this will be. We’ve got a short video below which shows you how you should be following your application:
Alternatively, stipulate that you will wait for the employer’s response. Conclude the covering letter by stating that you are looking forward to discussing the vacancy with the recruiter.
When you’re looking for a new job your initial goal is to get noticed. In all likelihood your application will one of a sea of others and you need to stand out in whatever way possible.
The covering letter is a brilliant way to do this. Remember to use it as an opportunity to answer what the recruiter is looking for and to use the advert almost like an exam question.
It will give you everything you need to craft a covering letter which will tell the recruiter that you are the perfect person for the job.
Once you’ve got that right, make sure your CV is up to scratch before sending your application off, and interview invitations should then start coming through.