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1. First impressions: Creating a captivating cover letter
Paragraph One - Why you're writing
Paragraph Two - Why you're suited to the role
Paragraph Three - Closing
End the letter with 'Yours Sincerely' if its to a named person or 'Yours faithfully' if not.
2. Beating the competition: Help your cover letter to stand out from the crowd
Now you have mastered the basics, it is time to enhance your cover letter and separate yourself from the competition.
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 working with local charities is something I am passionate about.'
Be enthusiastic - If you lack experience, attitude and motivation can make a huge difference. Express your energy and enthusiasm throughout your application and get the recruiter 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 key words from the job specification.
Be humble and confident - Accentuate your positive attributes (without being cocky), by focusing on how they will benefit the company.
3. Falling at the first hurdle: How not to write a cover letter
Your cover letter should be coming together. It's time to check for some easy mistakes to ensure that your cover letter gets you the attention you deserve!
Don't be too generic - Being a 'hard working' 'team player' might not be enough to differentiate you from the heavy 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 - Ok, admittedly this may seem like a contradiction, but 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; after all you are writing about yourself! Try to not use 'I' at the start of every sentence for some variety. For example: 'I have experience in sales' could be substituted with 'During my 2 years as Account Manager, I gained experience in sales.'
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.
Keep it simple, keep it short - Simple, clean cover letters can't be beaten: a good guideline is to keep your paragraphs to no more than seven lines and the whole letter to no more than one A4 page.
Proofread and proofread again! - Just check it one more time! Read it backwards, ask a friend to check it through for you. You will kick yourself if a spelling or grammar error slips through the cracks.