Cover Letters are an often overlooked aspect of the job application process. Too often, cover letters are a quickly-created addition to accompany a resume and fulfil a recruiter’s requirement for one.
A cover letter is your first opportunity to engage your prospective employer, and encourage them to review your resume. It enables you, in your own ‘voice’, to demonstrate the applicable qualities and experience that make you suitable for the job on offer.
Top End Consulting has compiled a list of tips to help you create the ultimate cover letter, that will help you get noticed by a potential employer and secure an interview.
1.Always send a cover letter with your resume
It is a common misconception that you do not need to send a cover letter with your resume unless specifically requested to do so. The truth is that your resume should always be accompanied by a cover letter, unless you are requested not to include one.
In an extremely competitive job market, failing to include a cover letter in your application can be a huge mistake. Consider your resume. It has most likely been written in short, succinct sentences, with the sole intention of demonstrating your skills and experiences relevant to the job on offer. A cover letter provides you with an opportunity to highlight relevant skills and experiences applicable to the role, and convey your enthusiasm for the job and passion for the industry.
2.Know your audience: Personalise your letter
Where possible, do not use generic greetings such as “Dear Employer” or “To Whom it May Concern” when addressing your cover letter to an employer. You should take the time to research the company to which you are applying – look on their website or make a call to determine the appropriate contact.
Where it is not possible to obtain a contact name, you should address the letter to the position of the contact, ie: Dear Recruitment Manager. It is important to never assume the gender of your recipient and address your letter as “Dear Sir” or “Dear Mister…”.
3.Hook them in
In the current competitive job market, it is likely that the hiring company will receive a large number of job applications for an advertised position. Consequently, your cover letter needs to ‘stand out’ from the others and grab the attention of the recruiter.
This does not mean printing your resume on scented, coloured or textured paper and having it delivered by courier. It means that you should avoid creating a generic ‘form’ cover letter that shows little research or effort.
Start your cover letter by demonstrating why you should be considered for the job. For example, don’t write “I am applying for the advertised position of…”, instead, start your letter by selling yourself, ie: “As an accomplished Marketing Manager, I have extensive experience with international marketing strategies…”. As with your resume, you want your cover letter to stand out for the right reasons.
4.Do not repeat your resume
Your cover letter should not be a regurgitation of your resume, and should be used to highlight your experience and accomplishments relevant to the position you are applying for. Your cover letter is an opportunity for you to expand on your qualifications and indicate how they can be of value to the hiring company.
Research the company and read the job advertisement to determine the key qualities they are looking for in an employee. Ensure that you address their requirements in your letter, by highlighting your transferrable skills and relevant accomplishments.
5.Use your connections
If you have heard about the job through a friend or networking connection, do not be afraid to mention this in your cover letter. If your connection is a current employee of the company, it puts pressure on the recruiter to keep that employee happy by considering you for the role. It also indicates that you have inside information on how the company operates, and its expectations.
6.Keep your letter short and neat
Ideally, a cover letter should be limited to one page, and be three to four paragraphs in length. Your cover letter should not be seen as an essay version of your resume. Your cover letter should be written in a concise, clear manner, with logical transitions between the paragraphs.
Ensure that your cover letter is pleasing to the eye. Use good quality paper and an easy to read font and font size. Your cover letter should look neat and professional.
7.Do not send the same cover letter to multiple companies
The entire purpose of a cover letter is to demonstrate why you are suitable to a specific job with a specific company. Hiring Managers and Recruitment Consultants are very adept at spotting mass mailed, generic cover letters, so you need to make sure you address the specific requirements of the job and the company.
8.Proofread your letter
Failing to check the grammar and spelling of your cover letter shows a lack of care that few employers are willing to overlook. It is essential that you proofread your cover letter for any spelling or grammatical errors, and then have another person double check it for you. You should ensure that you have spelt the company name and the name of the contact correctly, and have used appropriate capitalisation throughout the letter.
Whilst it may seem obvious, never use “text speak” in your cover letter, even if you are applying via email. For example, the following are excerpts from email applications received by Top End Consulting:
- looking 4 WRK
- wld like 2 arrange i/v 4 job. Pls ph me on mob.
- Have 3 yrs exp in hosp industry
Whilst time is often scarce, and communication using mobile devices is now commonplace, and English is a second language for many job seekers, there is still no excuse to use “text speak” in your job application. It appears lazy and unprofessional; hardly qualities recruiters are looking for.
9.Sign your letter
It is important that you remember to hand sign your cover letter above your name. This is proper business etiquette and displays professionalism. An exception to this exists if you are sending an email cover letter, as a signature is not necessary. However, you must ensure you write your name at the bottom of your email cover letter.
You should follow up on your application after the deadline for submissions has been reached. This is best done by sending a short, polite email to the recruiter inquiring if the application process has begun. Do not call or email the recruiter on a daily basis to get updates on the status of your application.
Recommended Cover Letter Outline
[Suburb, State, Postcode]
[Your email address]
[Suburb, State, Postcode]
Dear [Recipient name]
Re: Job title advertised (optional)
Paragraph 1: Indicate the position you are applying for and why you want for work for the hiring company. Remember to hook the recruiter in with a sales pitch about yourself.
Middle: Why should you be considered for the job? In one or two paragraphs, identify your skills and experience relevant to the position. Expand on accomplishments that can be found in your resume.
Paragraph 3: Thank the employer for their consideration of your application, and indicate how and when you will follow up.
[your handwritten signature]
[Your typed full name]
I don't want to rain on your parade, but as this platform should also serve for some tough feedback (how else would you learn?), I am going to deliver some.
What are consulting firms looking for when they hire junior people?
I would say, it boils down to four major things:
1. Raw intelligence
2. Ability to analyse problems, come up with hypotheses for a solution and a plan how to confirm these hypotheses.
3. Ability to structure both the analysis and the suggested solutions
4. Sellability - i.e. the necessary demeanor (behavior, language, style, appearance) to be able to send this young person to a client and charge a ton of money for it.
And unless you are a totally different person "in the real world" I seriously doubt that you would make the cut.
Because your posts exhibit a total lack of points 2 through 4.
- I assume that you are highly intelligent, so base 1 is covered.
- On 2: you have started to come up with ONE hypothesis why your applications are failing - your resume. What about others? How have you confirmed this hypothesis? You have tried to come up with a solution (amendments following V.C. advice), but you have no clue whether your resume is actually the problem. Besides that, your post also shows that you haven't done your homework - basic research. I mean, come on, as a member of this platform it should not be so hard to figure out what MBB means?
- On 3: Structure? Your posts are random ramblings, incomplete sentences, typos, littered with "...", and no clear line of questioning or argumentation.
- On 4: Closely related to No. 3 - which client is going to pay for someone who shows embarassing knowledge gaps, does not observe basic etiquette in writing and communicating with others and basically expects others to do their work for them?
Sorry to be so harsh.
Now you might say "hey, this is just a social network, we're all "pals" here, when it's about work I am a lot more serious".
But guess what: Wrong! This is serious, and we're not all pals here, we're professional advisors who happen to share some of their time, knowledge and advice for free. Maybe because some like helping, maybe because some expect help in return, maybe because it's good for business. It doesn't matter.
What matters is that time of everyone who you are asking for help is valuable, so it is just plain inconsiderate to expect major help (" Please I need more of your advice"), when you yourself could have probably a ton more beforehand. You show up for training with your running shoes on, not still in pyjamas!
Accept the fact that no one can do the work for you, or you will get eaten alive first week on the job. We can just try to lend a helping hand once in a while.
Hope that helps,
PS: Please don't understand this as criticism against you as a person - after all, we don't know each other, so who am I to judge. I may also be completely wrong in my assessment based on your posts here - you might just be a totally different person in real life. Then ignore everything I said ;-)
Best of luck!