COVER letters are just as important as a resume in a written job application. Before the resume is even scanned the cover letter is read first and if the letter is off target, then your resume may not even be looked at.
There have been several examples shared on the internet of awful cover letters yet job seekers often wonder how you can make your application stand out without going over the top.
Broadspring Consulting director Pam MacDonald offers five rock-solid tips to craft a cover letter that is compelling for all the right reasons.
This may sound simple yet more than 70 per cent of companies who state that selection criteria must be addressed in the cover letter say that applicants fail to do this. Ignoring what has been asked for is the best way possible to have the cover letter ignored.
Use your computer, a friend and your own review. All three stages are needed to make sure the document is accurate and error free. The human mind works in powerful ways and one of those relates to proof reading your own work. The brain knows what you wanted to write and so that is what you will see, even if there is an error. Always have someone else read over your cover letter and check for typos and other small errors.
Do your research. Include a brief comment that shows what you know about the company other than what was in the job ad. Such a comment can also be a way of revealing a little of your personality and it will also set you apart from those who have submitted a more standard cover letter.
Make sure you have the right contact details on the letter, including the company name. Many job applications have been discarded because the applicant had failed to remove the name of the last company they sent the application to, or used the wrong title, such as Mrs Timothy Jones. Sure these are small details yet critical if you want your cover letter to stand out for the right reasons.
If you have included examples of work showing your suitability for the job, make sure they are included in the resume as well. Making this mistake is easy if cover letters are updated more often than resumes.
- Your name should be in bold 14- or 16-point font.
- Your address and other contact information should be in normal 12-point font.
- The font of your letterhead does not need to be Arial or Times New Roman, like the rest of your letter, but it should be professional looking and easy to read. The most important thing to remember is to include up-to-date information so that you make it easy for the employer to contact you.
- You may want to include an extra line under the letterhead to create visual appeal and to separate the letterhead from the rest of the letter.
- From here on out, use 12-point Arial or Times New Roman throughout the entire letter, set your margins to one inch, and use single spacing. Be sure your font is black, and if you're printing your letter out, use standard-sized paper (8 1/2” by 11”).
Address the recipient. Be sure to refer to the recipient by his or her proper title (Mrs., Mr., Dr., etc.). If you’re not sure who the recipient is, write, “To Whom It May Concern:” or “Dear Sir or Madam”; however, it is always best to address a cover letter to a real person to make it look like you’re not sending form letters.
- You don't necessarily need to include how you became aware of the position unless it was through a mutual contact or recruiting program—in which case you should make the most of the connection.
- If you are writing a letter of interest (also known as a prospecting or inquiry letter) in which you are asking about positions that might be available, specify why you are interested in working for the employer.
- Make your qualifications jump out at the reader by researching the company to which you are applying for a job and tailoring your letter accordingly. This will also be useful if you get an interview. Some questions to keep in mind as you write are
- What is the employer's mission? What do they promote as the one thing that sets them apart from their competitors?
- What kind of customer base does the employer have? Who is their target audience?
- What is the company's history? Who founded it? How has the business evolved? What are the main highlights of the company's performance over the past few years?
Include a positive statement or question in the final paragraph that will motivate the employer to contact you. Make this closing paragraph between two and four sentences. Direct the employer to your enclosed resume and make sure you specify that you're available for an interview. Finish off by thanking the recruiter for their time and consideration, and welcome them to get in touch with you to continue the conversation.
Write an appropriate closing. It’s a good idea to thank the reader for his or her time. After that, write “Sincerely,” “Respectfully,” or “Regards,” leave several spaces, and print your name.
Add your signature. If you will be submitting your cover letter digitally, it’s a good idea to scan and add your signature, write it in with a digital writing pad, or make a digital signature stamp with appropriate software.
Make a notation of the enclosures. If you enclose something, such as a resume, with a letter, you should indicate that the letter contains enclosures by making the notation “Enclosure” or “Enclosures” at the bottom of the letter.