L.E.S. Guide to Writing Cover Letters
Ever wondered, why do I need to do a cover letter and what should I put in it? Surely my C.V. is enough? WRONG!
The cover letter is the first page of your CV. It is not an addition to it! A brief letter saying, ‘please find enclosed CV is not going to get you very far’.
A cover letter on its own isn’t ever going to secure a job by itself but a badly constructed and worded one is likely to sow the seeds of doubt into your potential employers mind.
A good cover letter explains, clearly and precisely, why you are worth being asked for interview. It points out to the employer the information that demonstrates that you have the qualities that the job calls for.
A good cover letter explains why you, over all the other candidates, are worth taking the time to find out more about.
Essentially your cover letter is a self-acclaimed competency statement for the job you’re applying for.
So what do I need to include in my cover letter?
Well here are the essential basics:
• Think about content and layout. Use the same grade and colour paper as your CV
• Unless a handwritten response is specifically asked for then you should type your letter
• If using email then put your covering letter as the body of your email. Add your CV as an attachment
• Keep it clear and concise – you don’t want the employer not being sure what you’re trying to say – or even what job you’re enquiring about!
• Try and keep it to one side of A4
• Spell check and double spell check -and don’t forget to check the grammar
• Ask yourself, if I received this letter, would I want to see me?
• Make the person who is reading the letter feel special – take the time to research and find out if at all possible, who will be receiving the letter and address it to them personally.
• Demonstrate some understanding of the Company – it shows you have taken the trouble to find out – and why you might fit the criteria they are looking for
• Relate your skills to the job – for example, if you are a good team worker or have led teams and the job requires this, then make some reference to it – but do it briefly
That’s really great, but how do I say all that in one side of A4? … How do I structure my cover letter?
Well first of all, think about how you’re going to start and end your letter.
The protocol that works well is that if you start with a name; e.g. ‘Dear Mr Smith’, then you should end with ‘Yours sincerely’. If you start your letter with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ then you end with ‘Yours faithfully’.
Put your name and address, as well as the recipient’s name and address at the top of your cover letter. Sometimes the recipient’s name doesn’t appear on the job advertisement, for example, when applying to a box number for a vacancy advertised in a newspaper.
However it can be worthwhile trying to find out the full name of the right person to address your letter to, rather than using the greeting ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, as this show’s initiative and makes the letter more personal to the recipient.
It’s a good idea to include a title for your cover letter, so that a busy reader knows at a glance what your letter concerns. Underline your title or begin it with ‘Re.’ (short for ‘Regarding’), and include the job reference number (if there is one).
For the first paragraph then:
- State the job you are applying for.
- Where you found out about the job (it’s helpful for organisations to know that their advertising has been successful. Equally if you found out through a friend or acquaintance then let that be known too).
The second paragraph is where you can expose a bit about yourself;
- Why you’re interested in the job.
- Why the company attracts you – if it’s a small company then say you are keen to work for such a company and why.
The third paragraph is the one that needs to get you noticed;
- Summarise your strengths – and how they might add value to the organisation.
- Relate your skills and competencies required in the job – these are your unique and personal selling points.
And finally the last paragraph;
- Note the dates when you will be available for interview
- Thank the employer for taking time to read your letter and CV and that you look forward to hearing from them soon