There’s one aspect of the job application process which is so appallingly overlooked, that it stops a hefty percentage of jobseekers from actually landing their dream role before they’ve even managed to set foot in an interview room.
The cover letter is perhaps the most important weapon you have in your application arsenal, and deserves a serious amount of time and thought. Why is it so significant? Quite simply, because this single document is what forms the very first impression you make upon your potential employer, and is an invitation to take a closer look at your credentials. Your CV might be the most impressive piece of paper in the southern hemisphere, but if you’re cover letter is sloppy and doesn’t do it justice, there’s a good chance your CV will never even get opened and will be tossed straight into the rejection pile.
So how do you sharpen up your cover letter, and make it the key factor in your next employment success? Just consider these simple steps…
Tailor your letter to suit the job
Believe me, there’s nothing worse (or more painfully obvious) than a standard, cut-and-paste cover letter that gets sent out to a hundred different companies. They’re so easy to spot, because they are addressed to ‘The Manager’ or similar, and contain no specific details connecting to the company you’re applying to be part of. Get yourself online, and find out the name of the person responsible for recruitment – it takes seconds, and yet makes a massive difference. Also, make reference in your letter to specific features of the job you’re applying for, or aspects of the company you take a personal interest in. Going the extra mile in this way is something which will make you stand out from the crowd, and will show willing and genuine interest in the job at hand.
Provide the goods
Make sure you provide a brief rundown of your academic level and general experience, and then hone in one or two examples of highly specific, deeply relevant experiences which have a connection to the job you’re applying for. Remember to back up your claims with real examples – e.g, if you’re applying for a team leader position, spend some time describing a role in which you successfully managed a small team, and the benefits this brought to your past employer.
Link yourself to the employer
The whole letter must, must, must be a display of how you – and uniquely you – are the right candidate for this specific role. Mention in your letter something which the company you’re applying to join has done in the past (perhaps a specific project or achievement) and follow that up with a sentence which either reflects upon a professional achievement of your own, or an aspect of your personality or career path.
Make it readable
Obviously, get somebody to read it through before you send it off – it’s amazing how many spelling mistakes make their way into cover letters. On top of this, make sure you keep the letter relatively brief, about one page of A4 is usually about right. It needs to be dynamic, interesting and completely relevant to the role – any filler needs to be cut out and replaced with killer content.