There is nothing worse as a recruiter than receiving a resume from a candidate for a position coupled with a cover letter that either says nothing, is badly worded or formatted or that doesn’t add anything to the application. It’s a waste of time and effort for both the candidate and the recruiter. So, why are cover letters important?
Although the cover letter is not always used in the process of making a selection decision, it is a fantastic medium to start to sell yourself for the job. This is an extra opportunity to convey your unique skills, experience and knowledge for the position and can be valuable if used correctly. The cover letter should be written in such a way that makes the recruiter keen to turn the page and read your resume to get more information. In fact, by the time they have read the letter, they should already be thinking that you might be a good fit for their position.
Steps to Success
There are a number of simple steps you can take to ensure your cover letter is conveying the correct message, but first, let’s do some thinking. Answers to the following question could make positive fodder for your cover letter:
- Why should this employer choose you?
- What is your passion related to this role/industry?
- What skills do you have which relate to this role?
- What do you know about the role and the organisation’s mission and values?
- What is the most important thing the recruiter will be looking for?
By answering these questions, you should have some information you can use within your cover letter that will ensure it is interesting, relevant and is conveying a positive message about you.
Once you have this information, there are a few ‘must have’ steps which cannot be overlooked, including:
- Ensure you have referenced the position by name and number if applicable
- Ensure your name and contact details appear somewhere in the letter
- Make sure there are no spelling mistakes and the letter is formatted neatly
- One page is usually enough – less is more
Relevant and Positive
The most important thing in producing a successful cover letter is to relate your awesomeness to their position. You can usually get enough information from the job ad and the organisation’s website to find out what skills and experience are required for the role. Use this to choose the most relevant skills you have in your repertoire and showcase them right there in the letter, front and centre. Write a list or a couple of short paragraphs about your key skills. Frame this with your introduction, reference to the position and wrap-up paragraph and you have your letter. However, don’t send it yet!
Leave some time between writing the letter and reviewing it. It is hard to be critical of your own writing when you have just written it. Get someone else to read it to and ask them if you have answered the questions above. When you review your letter, take out any passive or negative words and replace them with positive, confident ones. For example: ‘I believe my skills will contribute well within your organisation’, could simply be changed to ‘My skills will contribute well within your organisation’ – a much stronger, positive statement. Something like ‘With my previous experience, I think I can quickly learn your computer system’ could be replaced with ‘A quick learner, I am confident in my ability to learn new systems efficiently’. Keep it positive, confident and relevant.
Embellishment (or not)
The final tip for you is that there is a BIG difference between positive spin, and lying. By all means, go for it with putting a positive light on your experience and skills, especially if they are relevant to the role, however, as with all walks of life, saying you can do something when you cannot, is a recipe for trouble down the track – and just as there is a big difference between spin and lies, there’s a big difference in the job market between redundant and sacked!!
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