We are always harping on about getting your CV absolutely right. After all, it’s your first point of contact (usually) with your prospective employer and essentially forms their first impression of you. However, sometimes, you will be required to add in another written representation of yourself even before the CV is touched – that of the cover letter.
Now, not all employers require one, but it can be a good idea to use one and as with CVs, practice makes perfect. Too many candidates believe that a cover letter is a mere summary of the CV. This is not the case. Your CV should be concise enough that no additional summary is required. Rather, your cover letter is a way to emphasise your suitability for the role you are applying to. The CA team have some choice pieces of advice to make sure you get that cover letter just right and help your application stand out from the others.
1) Be short and sweet
Your cover letter should be no more than 3 paragraphs. You’re not looking to write an entire page here – just a succinct introduction as to who you are as a professional. Bear this in mind while you are constructing your letter and it will help to keep you from going off track.
2) No need for announcements
You do not need to state your name and the role you’re applying for in your cover letter. It will make you sound inexperienced. The recipient will already know the role you’re going for so you can rather allude to it, instead of stating it verbatim.
You also don’t need to address ‘nobody’. If you don’t know the name of the person who will be reading your cover letter and CV, just leave the ‘to’ bit off and get straight into the letter. ‘To whom it may concern’ makes it look like you have no idea about the company you’ve just applied to.
3) Don’t repeat your CV
This is one of the biggest mistakes we see candidates make. Your cover letter is not a rehash of your CV. They already have your CV for the information they require and will not be looking at the cover letter to provide it.
4) Show your personality and passion
The cover letter is your opportunity to show some of your personality, your interest in the position and in the field as whole. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate some ‘profession passion’ about the industry you’re in and the role you are so eager to assume. Use the opportunity to explain in your own words what it is that drives you to work your way further into the field you have chosen. You can describe moments that occurred during your studies or earlier work, or events in the history of the industry that solidified your passion for the career you’re in.
We’ll stop whinging about this when we stop seeing silly mistakes. One typo in your cover letter could easily write off your hard work completely. It’s a short piece – there is no excuse for a single typo within in it.
Your cover letter will rarely be the make or break of any job application, but it is a good thing to have fighting your corner. Getting it right can take some practice but once you have it nailed, you will find it far less of a mission to write one whenever it is required.