To cover or not to cover…

I am often asked if a cover letter is still important for applications. Some employers no longer ask for them; however, I always do, as do most companies I work with.

I particularly like them for several reasons:

  • It shows you have taken the time to look at the role and understood what it is really about and not just pressed the send button on the ads of a hundred roles that might be suitable.
  • It shows a genuine interest in the role.
  • You can articulate what you can bring to a role that gives me more information about your aligned capabilities and your motivations.
  • It will make you stand out from those that don’t do one.
  • It does take time; it does take effort; however, it does pay off.

Some things to consider with cover letters:

  • Each new role requires a new, individual, targeted letter.
  • Most of the letter should be about what you can offer them and how your expertise aligns with the role’s selection criteria. Don’t go on about why you want the role and why it suits you personally. You are best to cover that in the last paragraph only.
  • One page is always preferable. Beware of being too verbose.
  • Start with a statement to summarise your expertise in relation to the role overall.
  • Next, address in point form or short paragraphs relevant experience to the role.
  • Address the specific issues the advertisement raises to highlight where your previous work experience meets the requirements.
  • If there are selection criteria, this needs to be addressed with relevant examples or points. Some roles do not have selection criteria. If this is the case, you can just print off the advert and use a highlighter to highlight what you feel are the essential points of expertise required to address these.
  • Ideally, keep it to a maximum of four paragraphs or about six key bullet points. For university, board, or some executive and industry roles, they may require a separate selection criteria application as well.

Tips for formatting your letter:

  • Your address and phone number should be at the top, as well as the employer’s. Your cover letter can get separated from the CV, so by having contact details, you can ensure it’s the right CV with the correct cover letter.
  • Include the date.
  • For your heading, you can use RE: The title of the role you’re applying for. Include a reference number if applicable.
  • Name the contact if you can, e.g. Dear Mrs Jones. Undertake research and phone the company if necessary. Alternatively, use: To the hiring manager or Dear recruitment manager.
  • Check the spelling of their name. So many times, I receive letters with my name spelt incorrectly. This shows a need for more attention to detail, and as you know from my previous musings, soft skills are essential.
  • You should use the same font and formatting as your resume.
  • Include white space on the page and spread it out nicely.

Some don’ts:

  • Refrain from regurgitating your CV or your story. I want to see why you are suitable for the role.
  • Don’t do extended multi-page selection criteria unless they are specifically asked for.

Final paragraph/s:

  • Include the reason why you are looking to move. This is when you may say what you are after and why you are moving. Don’t let this take up the whole letter. It’s not about what you want; it’s about what you can offer them so that you stand out to be the one they want to hire.
  • Thank them for their time reviewing your application and say that you look forward to meeting with them to discuss further.

To finish:

  • Use ‘yours sincerely’ if you use their correct name or Dear Mr Jones or Mrs Jones.
  • Use ‘yours faithfully’ to finish letters commencing with Dear Sir/Madam or Hiring Manager.
  • Then you can just include your name signed, with your full name typed below.

Good luck, and I hope your next cover letter is what sets you apart for that next role.

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