In the competitive world of recruitment, cover letters help both potential employers and recruitment specialists quickly get right to the heart of who you are and what you want, before they even begin to look at your CV.
When applying to a recruitment agency, or direct to an organisation on a speculative basis, sending your CV without a brief covering letter explaining your purpose will be confusing and most likely forgotten.
At its best, a good covering letter will:
- demonstrate your knowledge and interest in an employer's company
- highlight your unique selling points and personality
- draw attention to additional information that does not fit easily into your CV
Making an impact
Your covering letter needs to engage your reader as quickly as possible. Like any good advert or marketing brochure, there are a few ways to achieve this:
- Get to the point as quickly as possible, avoiding any unnecessary elaboration
- Try to be original, so avoid making claims they will have read a thousand time before.
- Cut anything that is not absolutely relevant
- Make sure the tone of your letter reflects the content
- Say what you really mean, but not forcefully
Striking a chord
You should at ways seek to gain an emotional response from the reader:
Firstly, find out there name. If it's not obvious from the job advert, check the company website or call the company directly. The chances of them continuing to read are significantly increased if the letter begins “Dear Mr Smith” rather than “Dear Sir / Madam”.
Refer to their company in relation to recent news announcements, new products or technology launches. If they can see that you have done your research, it shows your interest in the company. Talk about why you have selected ‘their' company specifically and show that you understand their brand and what it stands for.
The key objective of your covering letter is to gain a response at the very least, and an interview at best. Consider some of the techniques advertisers use to generate positive responses:
Always invite your reader to contact you. Even something as simple as “I look forward to hearing from you” suggests that you are expecting a response, and the reader should feel some kind of obligation to do so. Make sure you include at least one strong proposition about yourself, your enthusiasm, your qualifications, and your experience.
If you refer to sections of your CV that you think deserve particular attention, then they will be more likely to take notice of them.
This is also a good place to explain anything that may not be obvious in your CV – if you explain why you had a 6 month career break a few years ago, it's better to tell them than to leave them guessing!