The Cover Letter is often overlooked till the last minute in favour of its slightly more complicated comrade; the Resume. However, it is vitally important in engaging the interest of potential employers and is the one place that you can truly express your personality and make your case. There are so many tips and tricks that make for a good cover letter and resume, but here are a few that our Expand Careers consultants have picked up over the last decade.
1. Address your cover letter to the correct person, wherever possible.
It might sound obvious, but it is very common for people to put ‘to whom it may concern’ or ‘to the manager’ when applying for a specific position. However, where possible, we recommend doing a small amount of research to find out the name of the appropriate person. It can be interpreted as laziness and a lack of interest if you do not, neither of which are desirable in a potential employee.
Who to address your cover letter to can vary according to different situations; however, any effort looks better than none at all. Sometimes you are told directly who will be looking at the resumes (particularly with advertised positions). At other times, it is necessary to do some research; it could be the head of Human Resources (HR), the business owner or a manager. Looking at the organisation’s website can be helpful in figuring out who is most appropriate.
At Expand Careers we would also suggest calling the organisation and asking them directly – this demonstrates enthusiasm and initiative and is also the best way of getting it right!
2. Use the information you have available to tailor your cover letter to the job you are applying for.
Having a standard cover letter and resume that you use on short notice is something our Expand Careers team encourage, however, if you are going for an advertised job or applying at a specific organisation, we recommend customising your cover letter accordingly. You can use the information from the advertisement or their website to work out how your skills, personality and experience coincide with what they are looking for, or what they value.
For example, if a job advertisement mentions the word ‘initiative’ a number of times, then write about your exceptional initiative in your cover letter. Your application may be screened by a computerised system which makes it very important to use the keywords the advertisement gives you for example excellent communication skills”. Similarly, if you are submitting your resume and cover letter to an organization that is not advertising, look up their ‘About Us’ page and tailor your cover letter to address how your ideals and values correspond with theirs.
Use the language they have used in their website/advertisement. This demonstrates that you are paying attention and are motivated. Don’t plagiarize their words exactly; use the information that they are giving you thoughtfully and with purpose.
3. Don’t use dot points.
Your resume needs to be very structured and concise, therefore the use of dot points is perfectly acceptable. You are restricted in how expansive you can be and you are given no opportunity to directly appeal to the reader. However, a cover letter is different all together.
A cover letter is an opportunity for you to engage on a more personal level with the potential employer.
It sums up why your values, skills and experiences are an appropriate fit for the position and allows you to make a personal, more heartfelt explanation as to why you would fit in and enhance the environment of the workplace. Additionally, it demonstrates your ability to communicate through the medium of writing – something that is important in almost all jobs.
There is nothing personal, engaging or heartfelt about bullet points. It appears careless and does not properly communicate your passion for securing the position. It also fails to show potential employers your writing skills.
4. Don’t just repeat your resume.
It can be tempting to just look at your resume and highlight your experience when writing your cover letter. This is less work and it might seem like you are just focusing on what is relevant.
On the other hand, no one wants to reread the same twice. While it is important to briefly mention your experience and how you are qualified for the position, we recommend using different examples than those used in your resume to establish how you demonstrate the characteristics that the potential employer values.
Talk about their organisation and how you embody their principles and ideals, but also mention how you respect and connect with their ethos and think that you can contribute to it.
Essentially, it is not just a summary of your resume, it is an engaging letter that establishes your passion for the position and how you can be a real asset to their organisation.
5. Editing, spell check, grammar!
Always edit. Do not send a first draft. Use spell check – please. Have someone read over your cover letter to check for grammatical mistakes.
No one expects you to be perfect, but obvious grammatical and spelling errors are a red flag for many employers.
There you have it; our Top 5 cover letter tips. Please note that these have been curated by our consultants and there are many, many other tricks and tips out there that contribute to an outstanding cover letter, these are just a few of the techniques we use. These can be very helpful when writing your own cover letter, however please get in touch with Expand Careers if you need a bit more assistance and we would be happy to book a Skype appointment with you, or help over email.