If you’re in pursuit of your dream job, then there’s one thing you should be clear on: your cover letter is one of the most important keys to securing that crucial first interview.
Whether you are applying for a job you’ve seen advertised, or are writing to a potential employer to enquire after any potential positions – here are 10 things your cover letter must do.
Your cover letter should:
1. Compliment, not duplicate your CV
It’s a common misconception that your cover letter is a wordier version of your CV.
While your CV is there to provide information on your educational background, skills and work experience, a cover letter is a concise document that makes it clear why you are the best person for that specific job.
2. Match your skills and experience to the job description
Every cover letter you write should be unique to the job you are applying for. Make it clear why the skills and experience you have make you the best candidate for this particular job.
If a job description lists ‘Essential’ and ‘Desirable’ skills then your cover letter must list all the skills on the ‘Essential’ list (and as many on the ‘Desirable’ list that are applicable to you).
3. Catch their attention in the opening paragraph
If an employer is short on time then it’s likely that they may scan over cover letters, ready to pick out those that catch their eye.
Make sure you have a strong opening paragraph that clearly and concisely summarises what job you are applying for, and why you are the best person for the job. Try to open with a recent accomplishment that is noteworthy, or an impressive skill that makes you unique.
4. Be customised
With cover letters there is no one-size-fits-all. Yes, it may take you a couple of hours to tailor each cover letter to each job – but it’s a task worth doing.
This echoes point number 2 – your cover letter must match your experience and skills to that particular job.
5. Tell them how you could help their company
Instead of telling an employer how great the job would be for you (e.g. “It would be a great opportunity for me to learn more skills and further my career”) – tell them how you think you would directly benefit their company by bringing your skills, experience and a passion to what they do.
6. Be one page in length
While your cover letter is there to play a big part, it should still be kept fairly concise – employers don’t have time to read a five-page document on how great you are.
Divide the one-pager into clear paragraphs with an intro, body and a closing paragraph.
7. Speak their language
Using language that suits the industry you are applying for can help to persuade them that you are suited to that job.
For example: if the job you are applying for requires you to use specific equipment, or be comfortable with particular software programs, then list them.
8. Highlight any training or professional qualifications you hold
Undergoing training or gaining professional qualifications demonstrates to employers that you are prepared to invest time in developing yourself and your career.
If you are applying for a role that would mean a change in your career pathway, then qualifications can help to prove your commitment to your new profession.
9. Encourage employers to want to read your resume
After an employer has finished reading your cover letter, they should want to look over your CV for more information on your skills and full employment history.
Always remember to invite an employer to read your resume in the closing paragraph of your cover letter.
10. Outline why you want to work for them
If you have spent time to research the company then let them know by calling out something specific that impressed you.
“I’d love to work for a company with such a great portfolio of clients and found the work you did on the City of Sydney campaign inspirational. I particularly enjoyed… ”.
You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Follow these tips to make your cover letter stand out from the crowd.