Perfecting your CV is one thing, but what if an employer never gets to see it? The sad fact is that an employer might not have the time to read through every applicant’s CV. A polished CV may get overlooked if your covering letter is either non-existent, or not up to scratch.
By writing a focused, concise covering letter that highlights your key attributes, you can give yourself the best chance of getting noticed and inspiring your employer to read on. So sit back and make sure your covering letter ticks all of the following boxes:
Correctly address your covering letter to the right person. Take the time to find out who should receive your application. Vaguely addressing it to ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, may see your CV getting dusty on the desk of an admin assistant, or filed away in a drawer never to see daylight. So get on the phone, and find out who is in charge of the recruitment process, and make sure your CV lands on the desk of the person who can give you a job. Always use a person’s title and their last name; don’t make the mistake of being too familiar with someone you have never met.
Include the right details relevant to the job you are applying for. In your letter, include the title of the job you are applying for and the matching reference number. An employer might have vacancies for more than one job role, so make it clear what you are applying for.
Identify how you heard about the job, for example: ‘I am writing in response to the advert you placed on AllTheTopBananas.com’ as this is useful to a recruiter, as they will want to know where their advertisement is receiving the best response.
Keep it short, concise and to the point. Your covering letter should be no longer than one page of A4 and a good length to aim for is just over half a page. Keep a clear focus on what you are writing; make your points in as few words as you can whilst still conveying the overall message. Remember that a lot of the things you will be mentioning should appear in your CV, so keep it brief and to the point.
Proof read your work. Check, check and CHECK AGAIN. Employers often cite bad spelling and grammar as one of the first reasons they stop reading an application. If an employer reads fifty covering letters, and ten have bad spelling, they still have forty competent applicants, so there is no reason to give the benefit of the doubt to the bad spellers. Avoid being wiped out at the first hurdle by checking your spelling, checking your grammar, checking it reads well and getting someone else to do the same.
Research the company and let that come across in your covering letter. Explain why working for this particular employer interests you, and demonstrate your knowledge of the business- what their strengths are, their position in the industry, and why this makes you want to work there.
Give examples of your strengths that make you suitable for the position. Don’t just produce big unsupported statements about your ‘excellent managerial skills’, if you do not make reference to the role where you displayed these talents.
Display a good knowledge of the job role. Demonstrate a good understanding of the position you are applying for and show how your skills are relevant to the job, as this emphasises that you understand what they are looking for.
Don’t send a picture- if it’s not an application for Britain’s Next Top Model, then a recruiter probably won’t care if you have two heads, as long as you can do the job you’ve applied for. No-one is going to be interested in the fact that you are sporting the latest trendy haircut, so leave your snaps in your photo album.
And if all that info has got your head spinning, here’s an example cover letter to give you some inspiration:
Dear Mr Johnston,
I am writing in response to the job advert you placed on AllTheTopBananas.com, to express my interest in the vacancy of Sales Manager (ref 645/1982).
I believe I have the right skills for this position and wish to further my career in sales management, which is a position I upheld at my previous employment with Sales Inc. for five years. Being in charge of a team of six has made me very adept at motivating a team and ensuring the smooth running of my department.
I am very interested in applying for this vacancy as I have often admired the business model that Sell, Sell, Sell, adheres to. Your large selection of clients is renowned within the industry and so is the quality of service you provide, which is something that I pride myself on within my own work.
I have held a number of roles that have enabled me to develop and perfect my skills in effective sales and customer service management. I am very goal oriented and have been successful in ensuring my team met the deadlines and targets set each quarter, and I believe that these skills would make me a valuable asset to your company.
Please see attached my CV for your further information. I am available for interview at any time, and my contact information is at the top of my CV. I look forward to hearing from you soon,