Just like a CV, a good cover letter is essential when looking for work, especially as most employers only spend approximately half a minute casting an eye over each job application. With this in mind, you have to make sure that your cover letter makes enough of an impression in those 30 seconds to make the reader want to learn more about you. But what should it contain? Lynn Cahillane, recruitment expert from reed.co.uk, shares her advice:
As they need to be written from scratch each time you apply for a new job, cover letters can be tricky to get right. Most people focus all of their efforts on writing their CV, and often forget a good cover letter is essential when looking for work. However, a cover letter should tell the company exactly why they should recruit you, so it’s important that you dedicate adequate time to writing it.
So, what steps should you take to ensure the recruiter gives your CV the attention it deserves?
Before drafting - Research, research, research
We can’t stress this enough. Before you sit down to write your cover letter, do some research on the company and the job you’re applying for. Things to know include what the company does, their competitors and where they're placed in the market.
Not only will carrying out this research give you the knowledge you require to tailor your cover letter and CV to the style of the company, it also demonstrates that you’ve a real interest in the role and the company itself.
Address it to the right person
A guaranteed way to send your application straight to the bin is addressing it to the wrong person or not personalising the letter at all. Your letter should always go to the person handling job applications, which is usually listed in the job advert. If it’s not listed or you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to call the company to ask for a name – you may even get extra marks for showing initiative!
Keep it brief and focused
Your cover letter should not just repeat your CV, it needs to show the company why you’re a good fit for them, and should never be longer than one side of A4. To keep it tight, our suggested format is:
1. Paragraph one
This should be short and to the point and explain why you’re writing. It is also useful to include where you found the advert, i.e. as advertised on reed.co.uk. Or, if someone referred you to the contact, mention their name in this section.
2. Paragraph two
Sell yourself to them – why are you suitable for the job? Briefly describe your professional and academic qualifications that are relevant to the role and ensure you refer to each of the skills listed in the job description.
3. Paragraph three
Emphasise your business benefits and outline what you can do for the company. Explain your career goal (make it relevant to the position you’re applying for) and expand on pertinent points in your CV.
4. Paragraph four
To finish, reiterate your interest in the role and why you are a good fit for the position. You can also mention that you’d like to meet with your employer for an interview.
5. Closing off
Don’t slip up with an inappropriate sign-off. Make sure you end your cover letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ and your full name.
Make your cover letter easy for the employer to read by typing it in an easy-to-read font such as Arial or Times New Roman. Avoid humorous fonts at all costs, as this could cloud the recruiter’s opinion of you even before they’ve had chance to read the content!
For more advice on CVs and cover letters visit www.reed.co.uk/career-advice