The information you share on your CV or application form will help the recruiter to see if you have the right skills and experience for a job. But a great cover letter can be a real game changer. Get it right and you’ll be highlighting why you’d be the perfect person for the job and showing off your job-worthy personality. Get it wrong and your decent application could end up in the bin.
When you’re writing your cover letter try and put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter who’s looking at hundreds and hundreds of applications. These will often be based on templates that have been downloaded online, and follow the same framework. There are plenty of tips about getting the spelling right and double checking your contact details, which are both really important things to do.
But how do you make sure that you really stand out, and only in a good way? Here are seven tips to make sure that your cover letter, informs, entertains and impresses any recruiter.
Don’t just rewrite your CV
A lot of people take their CV and just expand each section, so that it runs chronologically, with a paragraph for each important job. When most people are looking at your application they’ll be looking at the CV and the cover letter at the same time. They don’t want to read everything twice.
Write an opening that really gets their attention
Telling a story is a great way to open a cover letter, as long as it’s relevant to the job that you are applying for. If you are looking for a graduate job in marketing you might want to talk about a campaign that recently caught your eye, or if you dream of being a scientist, you could mention an invention or discovery that really fuelled your passion.
Keep it short
Most employers will ask for a cover letter that’s less than two pages long, but if you can, stick to a page. In fact, some people recommend three paragraphs. Focus on the outstanding and give the recruiter enough that they want to contact you. You’ll get an opportunity to share the rest when you get invited to the interview.
Don’t tell them your name
Nothing makes a recruiter cringe more than the line “My name is … and I am applying for…” – they already know this.
Fill those lines with personality
You want to show that you are enthusiastic and that you really want the job, but you also want your cover letter to turn you from a ‘great on paper’ candidate into a real person. So let them see what matters to you, and stick to your own voice.
Answer the question: why me?
What the recruiter ultimately wants to know is why they should interview you instead of one of the other 50 people who applied for the job. If you re-read your application and this doesn’t stand out, then don’t send it.
Presentation makes perfect
You don’t want your cover letter to be hard to read, so keep the lines spaced and the paragraphs short. If you are applying for a design role then this is a great place to let your talent shine. If not, show that you’re competent at putting together a word-processed document that is clear and attractive. Double-check the spelling one last time.
You might want to consider creating a PDF version of your application documents, to keep everything in one place. This is useful when sending CVs and cover letters together, because you don’t know what software the recruiter might be using, and your careful formatting could end up looking like a fatal print error.
Finish with a flourish
It’s important to leave the person who is reading the letter with a strong impression of who you are and what you can do for them. Keep it to couple of lines maximum, otherwise the point might be lost.
Getting your cover letter right is just one of the important steps in the recruitment process. If you are trying to decide what to do after university and are looking for a graduate programme that offers the chance to develop a range of skills take a look at the opportunities available with Enterprise.