Your Outstanding Cover Letter: What to Include and How to Structure It
Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2020 by Otti Hart — 1 comment
By Shahla Aliyeva
Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash
Anyone running a job advertisement is likely to receive dozens of cover letters, and you must make yours stand out from the crowd. Here are a few suggestions for how to make sure you get the responses you’re looking for:
· Get the basics right: It may sound obvious, but typos or spelling mistakes are going to be a huge turn off for the person reading your letter. Not only do they show you lack attention to detail, but they also suggest you couldn’t be bothered to proofread the letter. The same goes for spacing and grammatical errors.
· Grab their attention quickly: Don’t waste your first sentence explaining what a cover letter is. Instead, it would help if you used it to inject a bit of background about why this is the job for you. Personal stories go down great at this point, but make sure that you keep them short.
· Don’t just repeat your resume: There’s a balance to be found between repeating what’s on your resume and not making reference to it at all. In general, you should use the cover letter to expand on your resume and flag up particularly relevant aspects. Once you’ve finished writing it, read both at the same time and make sure that they link together well.
· The structure: In general, you should keep your cover letter to one side of typed A4 paper. Make sure that you keep your paragraphs short and finish off with your expectations of the next steps in the application process, then provide them with a way of contacting you.
- In these opening sentences, you should let the reader know what position you are applying for.
- Then, explain why you are applying for this position and the organization. Try to explain clearly why you think you are a suitable candidate.
- In conclusion, reiterate your desire to join the organization and end with a positive closing statement such as 'I look forward to hearing from you'. Sign off the cover letter with 'Yours sincerely' (if you know the name of the hiring manager)/'Yours faithfully' (if you do not), and your name.
- Last but not least, don't forget to sign the letter if you are printing it out.
Remember, the job of your cover letter is to show you off in your best light and also to make life easy for the recruiter. Make sure your positive attributes shine through and that it’s easy for you to be contacted if the recruiter wants to take you to the next stage.
The secret to a good cover letter is grabbing the attention of the person reading it. That is also the hardest thing to do and the reason why so many cover letters go in the bin before the person reading them has even got to the end of the first paragraph. Recent research shows that human attention spans across the world are getting shorter and you should keep this in mind when you’re trying to catch the attention of your perfect employer.
This means dispensing with the usual introductions and getting straight to the point. You might try starting with a story that demonstrates your aptitude for the job or mentioning a time when you’ve interacted with the company to which you’re applying, as a customer. Whatever you do, make sure that you show your experience and enthusiasm from the start of the cover letter.
Don’t waste space in your cover letter repeating the information that’s already in your resumé. Jobs and qualifications don’t really belong in the cover letter. What’s important is stories and examples that show that you’re worth interviewing. Whilst it’s important to appear professional, this is also a good place to show a little bit of your personality. If it’s a small company, there’s every chance that you’ll be working directly with the person reading your cover letter so it’s worth letting them get a feel for what you’re like to work with. Larger companies tend to have more bureaucratic approaches to recruitment and there’s a chance that your cover letter will only be parsed by a machine rather than read by a human. In these cases, it’s better to stick to a more professional tone.
Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash
Finally, try to keep things brief. Only let your cover letter run over a page if you’re really sure that you have the content to justify it. Keep in mind that the person reading it may simply be scanning the letter for interesting bits rather than reading the thing as a whole. Put in a few words and phrases to grab their attention as they scan, then end the letter so that you don’t drag things out for too long. Make sure your letter or resumé contains your full contact details so it’s easy for them to get back in touch with you. The harder you make it to contact you, the less likely they are to bother!