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Do You Need a Cover Letter?

CVs are always required when applying for jobs. But businesses sometimes don’t request you submit a cover letter along with your CV. It is ok to question whether a cover letter is necessary. You can save yourself a lot of time and effort by not writing a cover letter. However, a cover letter could help with your application...

A study on employer preference suggests that 56% want applicants to attach a cover letter to the resume.

Ensuring you have a well-written cover letter can go a long way to helping you achieve success. Cover letters are used to highlight your most relevant skills for the job you are applying for. They allow you to tell the employer exactly why hiring you is a good decision. The letter should list your skills and qualifications while relating these things to the job you are applying for. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to consider sending a cover letter.

If you’re guilty of sending identical cover letters for every single role, stop. It may save you time, but it won’t get you the job.

CVs give an overview of the of your career, cover letters provide specific industry experience.

Benefits of a Cover Letter

Even if the application does not require a cover letter, it is always a good idea to send one.

It allows you to show your personal side and demonstrate why hiring you specifically is a smart move. It is a great way to stand out from the hundreds of other candidates. If you spend the time to write a cover letter it shows your willingness to personalise your application for each job proving you are a motivated candidate. Your cover letter can help you to express your uniqueness. It is important that you remain professional and polite, but it is good to offer insight into your character.

When you write your cover letter you need to keep it to the point and focus on the job you’re applying for. Ensure it is relevant to the job by double checking the job description and comparing the requirements. If you’re lacking in experience in certain areas but have strengths in others, then just focus on your strong points.

If there is no way to submit a cover letter, then you don’t need one. Some applicant tracking systems don’t allow candidates to upload them. If that’s the case, you don’t have worry about it. If you have a strong desire to write a cover letter then an abbreviated email version could be used.

 

How to Write a Cover Letter

When you write a cover letter you should focus on the following points:

  • Explain how you will bring value to the company
  • Touch on what’s most important to the hiring manager
  • Tailor a few skills and achievements to match the desires of the hiring manager

 

Dear Sir/Madam

If you know the name of the person you are sending the cover letter to, it is best to use this. If not, use Dear Sir/Madam.

Paragraph 1

Why are you writing to them?

To begin with, include a few sentences explaining that you are writing to them to apply for the job role. You can also include how you came to hear of the vacancy. Don’t go too in-depth, you want to keep them interested!

Paragraph 2

Why are you suited to the role?

Once you have informed the receiver what your letter is about, you can now expand on the details listed in your CV. Use this paragraph to link your own skills to those needed in this job role. Make sure you are indicating how you are fully equipped to succeed within the role. Remember, where experience may lack, attitude and motivation can make up for it. Illustrate your enthusiasm and willingness to learn throughout your application.

Paragraph 3

What next?

Thank the employer/hiring manager in advance for their time and consideration for the job role. Tell them that you're looking forward to hearing from them in the near future. If you want to stand out from your competition, maybe include a sentence stating that you will call them to discuss the role in more detail.

Yours Sincerely

If the letter is addressed to a named person end the letter with Yours Sincerely, if not, use Yours Faithfully.

 

Cover Letter Tips

Read the company's mission statement.
Most companies will have their values or mission statement on their website. Aligning yourself with these values will show how well you will fit in with the company culture e.g. 'I admire XYZ's value of corporate social responsibility as I am passionate about working with local charities.'

Be enthusiastic.
Don’t worry if you lack experience because attitude and motivation can make a huge difference. Express your energy and enthusiasm throughout your application and get them excited about you!

Use keywords.
Many recruiters use screening software to sort the huge numbers of applications they receive. Make sure your cover letter makes the cut by including keywords from the job specification.

Be humble and confident.
Accentuate your positive attributes (without being cocky), by focusing on how they will benefit the company.

Do your research.
A careless error like misspelling the name of the company you are applying to is unforgivable to most employers. Go the extra mile and find out as much as you can about the company to help you write a targeted letter.

Proofread.
Read it backwards or ask a friend to check it through for you. You will kick yourself if a spelling or grammar error slips through the cracks.

Screen your social media.
Ensure your social media presence doesn't let you down. Employers will often check your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn when considering your application. A 140-character rant about how much you hate your boss could cost you the chance for a new position.

 

What Not to Include in a Cover Letter

While a well-written cover letter can increase your chances of getting an interview. A poorly-written cover letter could be cause for rejection. In order to make sure your cover letter is going to help you secure an interview, make sure you avoid the following mistakes.

Don’t waffle.
Aim to make your cover letter 3-5 paragraphs long. A simple, clean cover letter can't be beaten. As a good guideline, keep your paragraphs to no more than seven lines and the whole letter to no more than one A4 page.

Format properly.
Review some cover letter samples online to compare. Get some ideas on the layout and content…But don’t use a template!

Don't be too generic.
Being 'hard working' and a 'team player' might not be enough to differentiate you from the competition. Use specific examples of your best work or useful qualifications to show how you will be a great addition to their team.

Don't be too informal.
As many job applications are done online and via email, there is a temptation to use a relaxed and overfamiliar tone. Although there is some room to add your personal touch, remember you are applying for a job and a professional tone is expected. Addressing the hiring manager with Mr/ Mrs/ Miss/ Dr and signing off with 'Yours Sincerely' are easy ways to remain formal and polite.

Don't be too formal.
There is a difference between using a professional tone and becoming overformal and loosing meaning. Clarity is paramount.

Avoid overusing 'I'.
This is a tricky one. Try to not use 'I' at the start of every sentence. For example: 'I have experience in sales' could be substituted with 'During my 2 years as Account Manager, I gained experience in sales.'

Helpful Guides

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