It is not enough to write a great CV and hope to get the job. There’s a lot that goes before your CV might read. An impressive cover letter is one of them.
These days there is so much competition for jobs that your cover letter has to be as sharp, engaging and interesting, all whilst shining a light on your best qualities. Your primary goal is to get past the cover letter stage and into an area where the HR staff member or manager actually looks at your CV.
1 – Be concise, but informative
You may not know how to write a cover letter very well. Sure, you may have a rough idea of what is needed, but there is a good chance you have never been a manager or a HR professional and so have no idea what they are “really” looking for.
The biggest point any manager or HR professional is going to make is that the cover letter should be short. This is because they are usually strapped for time and it is boring reading through hundreds of cover letters and CVs every year.
However, what they do not tell you is that they “will” look at a slightly longer cover letter if they are good enough. If your cover letter has enough of a hook and captures their interest, then they will read it all.
The best way to keep it interesting is to keep it concise. Make your point with as few words as possible and it increases the cover letter’s chance of being read in full. A long cover letter is often one that is fluffy and bloated. Cut out the fluff and bloat, keep it interesting, engage with the reader, and you have a perfect cover letter.
2 – Do your research before you send
Find out about the company and its employees. Find out what types of cover letters work best for them. Find out if your letter will be read by a senior manager or somebody from the HR team. Find out what other people have written in their cover letters to get the job, and understand if there are any elements you should add that will make more of an impact.
For example, if you did your research and found out that the current position has opened up because the previous employee was a thief, then you can casually drop into your cover letter that you have a clean criminal record. Do your research and you will mine information that can help you stay one-step ahead of all the other applicants.
3 – Name an employee who is currently employed there
If you can, you should drop a name within your email. If you have made contact with an employee on social media, or somebody recommended that you apply, then drop that person’s name in your cover letter. Even if the HR member that looks at your letter does not know the employee, it is going to make an impact because it shows a connection between you and the company. It elevates you above the hundreds of other applicants that have no link to the company at all.
4 – Look at other cover letters for inspiration
It is a good idea to look at other cover letters and maybe even steal a few of their finer points. The Internet is loaded with examples of cover letters that you can look at. One of them may have a very good line in it that you can lift, and another may have an eye-catching structure or element that you could copy.
You can mix up the things you steal, lift, and experiment with them to see which work best for your cover letters. You can compare your own cover letter to those of other people to see if yours has more or less impact.
5 – Test your cover letters and keep improving them
Do not write a single cover letter and use it for different jobs. Try out a few different types and see which ones lead to an interview. If you were to create three versions of a standard cover letter, you could send each off to different companies and see which gets you the best results. There are a lot of variables and there is a chance your cover letter didn’t play a part in your success, but if a cover letter performs better than the others, then logic dictates you try and use it again and learn from it so you can enhance your cover letters in the future.
Consider making yourself a structure for your cover letters. It can be a framework or a plan for future cover letters to help you create letters that are more effective in the future. For example, you could create a template plan that demands you put a hook (attention grabber) in the first line, and then other features to guide your writing. Here is a quick bullet point plan you can use to get you started.
- The hook
- A resolution to the hook
- Your reasons for making contact
- A list of what you have attached to the email
- A few selling points about yourself
- A polite and professional closing.