Step 3: Preparing a Cover Letter

cover letter

Cover letter message

Cover letters are the first point of contact with your potential employer, your first opportunity to make a lasting and favourable impression.

Imagine your covering letter as the shop window or doorway to your CV. The person reading it may have hundreds to get through, in which case you cannot afford to miss out on the opportunity to highlight why your application deserves their attention.

You need to keep at the forefront of your mind that your covering letter will provide confirmation that you possess the essential skills appropriate for the role.

While your CV sets out the skills and competencies you possess to carry out the job, your covering letter highlights your motivation and outlines how you relate to the organisation’s values, ethos and aspirations. It is an opportunity to put your CV in context with the position and your chance to:-

    • Demonstrate to your potential employer your interest in and knowledge of the company and the industry in general.
    • Highlight particular parts of your CV that set you apart from the other applicants
    • Give an explanation of any anomalies in your CV e.g. gaps in your employment history.
    • Deal with temporary or permanent personal circumstances, such as disclosure of disability.
    • Re-write your Cover Letter for every application. Just because you feel you have included all the essential information necessary to secure you an interview, re-read the job specification and the company web-site to ensure that the promotion of your suitability is aligned to the needs of the organisation. The requirements of the role will be as unique as the organisation itself.

Cover Letters for jobs that are not advertised. This is your opportunity to demonstrate why your skills and experience provide an opportunity for a mutually beneficial interaction. Make sure you say why you are attracted to the organisation and how you think you could make a difference.

 

What to include in a cover letter

what to include in a cover letter

Generally, the following information should be contained in every cover letter:-

  • Your contact details – name, email, mobile phone number, address. These need to be readily accessible and prominently displayed for ease of reference.
  • Details of which job you are applying for – job reference if there is one.
  • Where you heard about the job – advertisement, referral from friend etc. This may be an opportunity to align yourself to an existing employee, already performing well in a similar role.
  • What skills and experience equip you to perform the role effectively – refer to the checklist of requirements set out in the job description.
  • Any relevant recent job experience – if you have had relevant experience, ensure you highlight this information, which will encourage the recruiter to read your CV.

 

Essential information

cover letter essential information

Here are some top tips:

  • If printing, print the cover letter on the same paper as the CV.
  • If emailing, write the cover letter in the body of the email.
  • Keep sentences short and to the point.
  • Use blank font.

Your letter should always be addressed to an individual, where possible. If you don’t know, then ring the company and ask for the name. This is an opportunity to stand out by showing initiative.

By obtaining a name, or at least a title, not only will your letter reach the right recipient but it also gives you a contact name to follow up with or email.

Decide what information you are going to include before you start, so you can keep it brief and to the point.

Tell them what you can contribute to the organisation rather than how getting the job will benefit you.

Match yourself to the job specification. Particularly during this pre-screening phase, you need to ensure the person reading your cover letter is left in no doubt as to your suitability for the role. Make sure you describe your talents using dynamic action verbs such as:

Planned
Devised
Achieved
Developed
Liaised
Evaluated
Supervised
Co-ordinated
Managed
Administered
Controlled
Selected
Created
Instructed
Negotiated
Designed
Researched
Analysed
Discovered
Recommended
Tested
Diagnosed
Budgeted
Monitored
Evaluated
Examined
Assessed
Promoted
Sold
Advised
Selected
Trained
Taught
Explained
Presented
Conducted
Distributed
Organised
Solved
Represented
Persuaded
Calculated
Completed
Arranged
Responsible for

Refer to relevant skills and experience contained within your CV. Highlight the fact that you have all the pre-requisite skills to perform the job.

Do a little research about the company. If the company has been in the press lately or they have a web site which delivers current news and achievements, make sure you are aware of them and refer to something topical in your letter.

Explain any gaps in your work history. Don’t hesitate to say that you have taken leave for 5 years to look after children or to travel the world. Invariably you will have gained new insights and skills which are now transferable to the role.

Finally, read, check and re-read your cover letter. Ensure it is set out clearly, concisely and contains no spelling errors. Make sure you spell the name of the contact and organisation correctly.

 

Final top tip when preparing a cover letter

cover letter final tips

When preparing your cover letter, keep in mind that the top twelve competencies/skills sought after (irrespective of industry or role) are: –

Commercial awareness
Communication skills – written and verbal
Reliability and commitment
Leadership
Ability to work in a team
Problem solving
Conceptual ability
Subject knowledge
Numeracy
Foreign languages
Presentation and attention to detail
Good general education

Overview of the 10 Steps
You can find out more information about each step here.