Step 3: Preparing a 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
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.
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
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
- Ability to work in a team
- Problem solving
- Conceptual ability
- Subject knowledge
- Foreign languages
- Presentation and attention to detail
- Good general education
Overview of the 8 steps
Step 1: Where to Begin
Focuses on where to begin when looking for a job. Areas covered within this module include where to look for jobs, agencies to use and how to schedule priorities to ensure you maximise your time and effort.
Step 2: Creating your CV
Focuses on the creation of your CV. Presents you with tips on how to create a relevant and eye-catching resume whilst still including essential information in a proffessional and structured way.
Step 4: Completing the application form
Designed to guide you through the importance of application forms. Everything from your wording, to how you fill these forms in matters. Make sure you take advantage of this insider information as you only get one chance.
Step 5: The interview
Designed to guide you through the interview process. With tips and advice, this is invaluable and if used effectively, will help you to avoid interview pitfalls and ensure you are fully prepared for your next interview.
Step 6: Interview questions
Leads on from step 5 and provides you with a selection of interview questions that include both person specific and structured questions. This module will help you with your answers and how to put your point across in a relevant and professional way.
Step 7: Body language
Designed to give you an overview of body language, in the context of attending an interview and making an impact for the right reasons. Providing a valuable insight into what your body, tone and mannerrisms are saying about you!
Step 8: All important feedback
Designed to give you an overview of the options and methods to elicit feedback. This module will help you detach the emotion from rejection and allow you to grow and learn from each experience.