Cover letters: easily the peskiest part of the job application process. They are usually left to the last minute after spending hours on your resume, quite often cut and paste from the last job application you submitted, and look…who really reads the cover letter anyway?
I have bad news for you. There is a reason why cover letters haven’t vanished – recruiters and hiring managers still love them. Most won’t review a resume without a cover letter, and if the cover letter isn’t engaging, you won’t get the job.
The cover letter is a glimpse into you – your personality, your story and, ultimately, what you can bring to their company. Let’s be honest, in a sea of university graduates all looking for entry level positions, most of your resumes will look pretty similar so your cover letter will be your point of difference.
Here are a few tips to write a great cover letter:
- Keep it to one page – think quality not quantity.
- Don’t be overly formal – the best way to convey personality is to write clearly. ‘I’m thrilled to be writing to apply for the position at the company’ is much more approachable than ‘I wish to convey my interest in filling the open position at your establishment’. Before you press send, try reading it aloud and if there are some areas that feel unnatural, rework them. Disclaimer: aim for natural, but not casual. Starting the letter with ‘Hey [recruiter]!’ is not a great idea.
- It’s painful, but you will need to write a new cover letter for every position that you apply for. Tailor your letter to demonstrate your understanding of the company - study the content, advertising, recent projects and company culture, paying particular attention to the department you wish to join.
- ‘Ask not what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company’ (sorry JFK). Avoid writing about how great this job will be for your experience – recruiters want to know how you are going to contribute to the company.
- Proof read: check, check and check your spelling, grammar and sentence structure. It’s harsh but true – if your attention to detail is lacking in your cover letter, then why would a recruiter trust you will apply attention to detail in your day to day job?