When applying for jobs online, cover letters are often an optional addition to your CV. A good cover letter can help your application stand out and help to get you shortlisted. However a bad cover letter can be equally effective in damaging your chances. When considering whether to include a cover letter the advice should be do it right, or don’t do it at all!
1. Make it Specific
The main purpose of a cover letter should be to highlight why your skills and experience are suited to the specific role you are applying for. Whilst your CV will mostly stay the same for each application your cover letter should be written afresh each time. This may be time consuming but sending a generic cover letter that clearly doesn’t apply to the role in question is the quickest way to get your application rejected.
2. Refer to the advert
If the advert has specified the skills needed or main duties of the role, make sure you address these in your letter. Your CV will already show whether you have the correct experience or not but the cover letter is your chance to highlight why exactly you are the right candidate. You could either bullet point the skills you have that match what the advert is looking for or pick out a few points and highlight examples on your CV that are evident of these skills.
3. 3. Format it correctly
You may be sending it electronically but a properly formatted letter makes a better impression than a casual email and shows that you have not lost the traditional skills that employers still value. This also means accurate spelling and no ‘text speak’ (yes it happens!). Keep it short too, a couple of paragraphs are sufficient to highlight your skills and sell yourself. Any longer and it is likely to be skim-read.
4. 4. Keep it personal
If the advert includes a name then make sure you address this person directly to show again that this is not a generic letter. If the advert is directly for a company and not through an agency then specify why you want to work for that company. If the advert is through an agency and they haven’t specified the company, focus on why that particular role is perfect for you and why you want to work in that industry.
5. 5. Round it off
Add any additional information you think would be useful such as your notice period or the best way to contact you. Thank the reader for their time in considering your application and reiterate your interest in the vacancy. Finish with your name and contact number if you haven’t already included it at the top.