Looking for a job? You’re going to need to have a well-written and persuasive covering letter. So, how do you deliver the letter that will get you the job you really want?
If you know a bit about the job and the organisation you are writing to then this shouldn’t be too onerous a task. The biggest mistake job seekers make is sending out a generic letter to several different companies, which does nothing to help a company see that you really want to work for them.
Even if the organisations are similar, for example if you are applying for school jobs, you should still read about the ethos and do a little research – and your would-be employer’s website is a great place to start. Read the about us page and throw in any relevant information that shows you’ve read this and understand what the company ‘is all about’.
If you are not sending a speculative application, you should play close attention to the job advert making sure to link your skills and experience to anything in the job description that makes that role stand-out. Alternatively, you could ask any friends who many know about the organisation or industry you’re aiming for.
Other than this you should include information about your career goals and ambitions, and your top achievements in any previous roles. These might be in your CV but your letter allows you to draw attention to the highlights and offer more information about these points.
But it is not just your experience you are selling, you should also try to get your personality across and get the recipient to understand how driven, professional, conscientious you are. Writing about why you think you would be a good fit for the company is a great way to get this message across.
Your style of writing can tell your potential employer nearly as much as the content in many ways. Adopting the right tone shows you’ve understood a company’s values. As a general rule, though, don’t stray into informal or colloquial language. This sort of writing might send the message that you’re not actually serious about the job. Only if the position dictates should you adopt a more creative/informal tone.
Other quick points on style: try to keep your sentences shorter in length to make them easier to read, don’t repeat yourself, and only include jargon relating to your field where appropriate (avoiding any terms that you don’t fully understand).
You also need to consider the following five pointers:
- Some sites will recommend you send your cover letter as a PDF which is easily done in MS Word. However, nearly every company will be happy with a typical Word file (.doc or .docx).
- Keep it to about a page in length which is generally about 500-600 words.
- Ensure you break up the text into paragraphs as a wall of text can be daunting for time-pressed HR managers.
- Always proofread thoroughly. Mistakes will make you stand out for the wrong reasons.
- Whenever possible try to address your letter to a specific person otherwise it’ll just sound odd.