When it comes to job applications, cover letters are crucial. They introduce you to the employer and tell them how the experience outlined in your resume makes you a great match for their position.
Here are five things Sian Havard, Founder and Consultant at recruitment company Milkshake Group, would like to tell you about your cover letter, so that you can write a winning one.
Your cover letter might not always be the first thing I look at, but if your application doesn’t have one you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.
All employers and recruiters ask for different things in their application processes, but it’s generally expected that you include a brief, relevant cover letter. If you submit an application without one, it’s likely to be ignored.
But it’s not just important to write a cover letter; you need to write it well.
Cover letters can take different forms, so pay attention to what’s requested in the job ad. If you’re specifically asked to submit one as a Word document, follow their instructions. Otherwise a cover letter in an email may suffice. Havard explains, “A lot of applications these days are emailed directly to someone. This means the content of your email replaces the traditional cover letter, so there’s no need to attach a separate cover letter. A well written, brief email making reference to an attached resume will be a strong start to your application process.”
Keep it brief.
“Any email or attachment you send to a company you’d like to work at demonstrates how you might communicate with people inside and outside of the company if you worked there,” says Havard. So keep it professional, and punchy.
“Usually around four to five short paragraphs will be sufficient for a cover email. An attached letter might be a little longer but shouldn’t be more than one page. The purpose of a cover letter is to offer the person reviewing it a taster of who you are, your potential fit for the position and incentivise them to review your resume to learn more about you.”
Get to the point.
Sometimes you want to build suspense and tell a long, drawn-out story, but cover letters are not the time for this! Be up front and explain why you’re the right fit for the job right away. The opening sentence of your first paragraph should include your most relevant qualifications and your objective. For example, “With a background in closing contracts at top corporations, I am confident that I could excel in the role of Sales Executive.”
“A cover letter is a great opportunity to succinctly tell the person reading it which role you’re applying for and why you’re interested in it,” Havard explains. “Your resume should then showcase why you’re a good fit for the role in more detail.”
Don’t just regurgitate your resume.
A cover letter should expand upon the relevant points, rather than repeat them. After you’ve wowed the recruiter with your opening statement, introduce yourself. “Include things like how you found out about the role, why you’re interested in applying for it, and any relevant understanding you have about the position and the company.”
Show that you understand the culture of the company you’re applying to. “If you’ve read about the company online and you can tell they’re informal in their communication, use your cover letter to show you know how to communicate in their language.”
Know who you’re talking to.
“If a job advertisement stipulates exactly who the application should be going to, then use your cover letter to address that person. If it’s unclear, stick with ‘To whom it may concern’.” Havard says ‘Hi team [company name]’ may also be fine if you’re applying to an informal environment, but it pays to be more formal, unless you’re really sure.
If you’re sending your application to an email address – as opposed to uploading it to a website – Havard says it’s likely a particular person will be reviewing what you’ve sent. “In this case, a well written, basic cover email mentioning that they can find your resume attached as an expression of interest for the position advertised is often enough to inspire them to open your resume.”
By following these simple tips you’ll be on the right track with your cover letter. And while you’re at it, make sure the personal summary in your SEEK Profile is up-to-date – it’s a great way to introduce yourself to prospective employers.