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In most circumstances, a cover letter is the first opportunity you’ll have to impress a new employer. While a CV is often a factual and informative way to represent your career to date, the cover letter should offer some insight into your personality while giving them a brief overview of the ways in which you can add value.
Different employers will look for different things in cover letters. For some of our clients, they hold real significance in candidates’ overall application while others ignore them completely and look straight to the CV. Either way, if you’re looking for a new role, we’d recommend not taking the risk! So, here are our tips for crafting the perfect letter:
1. Know your audience
Like any piece of marketing material, know who you’re writing for. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what they’re probably going to want to read about. Think about the kind of person they’re likely to need in the role, and the personality that would suit their business culture. Are they a legal or accountancy firm? Are they a tech start-up? A creative communications agency? Each of these businesses will expect very different styles of cover letters and you should adapt the tone of your letter to match.
2. Keep it short
Your cover letter may have the potential to span pages and pages, detailing your life story and how you got to this stage in your career. I’m sure it’s all very interesting, but your potential employer probably won’t want to hear it (sorry). As a rule, stick to no more than 200 words. Similarly, keep the sentences to the point and no waffle!
3. Be original
Imagine the piles of CVs and cover letters the hiring manager has received. No doubt, other candidates have simply copied and pasted the same cover letter and sent it to multiple employers. Always personalise your letter for the business to which you’re applying. An original letter that illustrates you’ve completed your research and shows off your personality will literally jump off the pile. It also demonstrates a willingness and enthusiasm which will be gratefully appreciated.
4. What’s in it for them
Your cover letter should address how well you’re going to solve their immediate problems. Use ‘I’ sparingly, focus on their specific needs and how hiring you will meet them. While your experience may well be relevant to this, it’s your skills derived from this experience that are key. This is especially true if you’re applying for a role that is a side step from previous roles. You’ll need to demonstrate how and why your skillset is applicable to the competencies required of this position.
Remember, even the most perfect CV may not even be seen by a potential employer if they don’t feel the cover letter addresses their needs. So as you spend hours perfecting the details of your CV (check out our CV tips here), ensure you leave enough time to craft your cover letter too.