You may have spent a good deal of time putting together a CV, but your cover letter will also play an important part in the application process. The purpose of your resume is to list your skills and experience. The cover letter is the bridge between the job description and your CV, explaining why your qualifications and skill-set equip you for this particular role.
Within a 30-second period, your cover letter should convince the hiring manager that you are a good fit for the company and the perfect candidate for the advertised role. If your cover letter passes this test, you may just get that interview call you’ve been waiting for.
Do your research
Before you do anything else, reread the job description and find out more about the company via the website. Explore what the company does, who its competitors are and where it stands in the market. Understanding the organisation and its vision will help you to write a cover letter that shows you share the same aims. Tailoring your cover letter to the specific company will show that you are really interested in the role and the future of the organisation.
Address it properly
The job advert should give you a named contact to send your application to. If it does, ‘Dear Ms Williams’ or ‘Dear Mr Collins’ is the best format to use when addressing your cover letter. If no name is given, you may wish to ask the HR department or to use ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. Make sure you have the correct email or postal address so that your application makes it into the appropriate hands.
The opening paragraph
Your opening paragraph should be concise and to the point, for example, ‘I would like to be considered for the role of marketing manager...’. You may wish to explain how you heard about the job, particularly if a friend who already works for the company suggested that you apply.
In your second paragraph, you should explain why you are suitable for the job. Give a brief overview of your qualifications, skills and experience. Make sure you tick all the boxes laid out in the job description using your own words.
Your third paragraph is the place to explain what you can offer the company. Give examples of how you have helped your current organisation meet important goals or targets.
In your fourth paragraph, demonstrate why you are a good fit for the role. Explain your career goals (providing they relate to this role!) and how this position would help you fulfill them. Show that you meet the essential and desired criteria, and anything else you can offer over and above these. If you’re feeling brave, indicate here that you would be interested in meeting with the employer for an interview.
If your letter is addressed to a named contact, use ‘Yours sincerely’ to sign off your letter. If you are using ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, use ‘Yours faithfully’. Sign off with your full name.
When it comes to presentation – and this also applies to your CV – it should clear and easy on the eye. Avoid quirky fonts, colours and charts. Stick to a simple letter formula that will make reading it as straightforward as possible for the hiring manager. Remember that less is more; one side of A4 is plenty for a cover letter.