Why Cover Letters Matter – Here Are The Crucial Dos And Don’ts
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In my many years as a recruiter in the City, I must have read hundreds if not thousands of cover letters – the good, the bad and the ugly.
To speed up the process of sorting the wheat from the chaff (and the downright rubbish), there were certain things that spelled instant rejection.
The most important thing to remember is – AVOID ALL TYPOS AND SPELLING MISTAKES! If you haven’t bothered to re-read, double check and spell check your cover letter, then it’s giving the message that you didn’t care enough to take your time with it, ergo you don’t really want the job and even if you got it, you’d be slapdash in your daily duties. Instant fail. Your cover letter will simply be shredder fodder.
I have seen countless cover letters that refer to the wrong company – this happened to me so many times and every time, the CV went straight in the bin. Such a schoolboy error! When recycling your letters don’t forget to tailor them to your target company and triple check the company name.
Not everyone will read your cover letter, but if someone does, it had better be good. You frequently still need a great cover letter, even in the modern email age, unless of course it’s a direct application on a company website. Even so, the rules apply for any intro statement on those.
Here are my top tips to make sure your cover letter is the perfect appetiser before the recruiter gets their teeth into the main course – your CV.
Angle your intro
Do include a job reference and details of the position you’re applying for in the email subject header or at the top of your physical letter.
Don’t address it ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear sir or madam’. If you haven’t bothered to find out exactly who you are sending the letter to, this comes across that you can’t be bothered and reeks that the cover letter has just been copied and pasted from another job application.
You must ALWAYS write a fresh cover letter tailored to the role in question – reusing the more generic parts is fine, but open a new, blank document each time.
Start with something that sets you apart from all the other candidates. Remember, your cover letter is your opening sales pitch – craft a sentence which gets the recruiter hooked from the get go and explains why you are the perfect match for role in question, better than all the other applicants, and how you are going to be a benefit to the company. If the business or sector is facing a challenge right now then demonstrate how you can solve this.
Mind your language!
Don’t come across as desperate and drown your cover letter with the kind of forelock-tugging tone that thanks the hirer ‘incredibly much’ for reading it, or is ‘awfully excited’ about the prospect at working at the company.
Cut the adjectives and keep it simple – explain why your skills meet the requirements of the role in question and how you are going to add value in a matter-of-fact tone. Be enthusiastic, not pathetic. Don’t lie, exaggerate, use clichés or resort to insincere flattery.
Be clear about why you want the job
Do detail your motivations – explain why you have applied for this job, what appeals to you about the role, why you love the sector and why you would love to work for this organisation. Link all of this back to your skills and what you will bring to the role.
Don’t overuse ‘I’.
A cover letter must explain how you meet the employers needs – it’s not about you.
Don’t write an essay
Three to four paragraphs are sufficient. And don’t regurgitate your CV – this is your chance to highlight your most relevant accomplishments.
Don’t be passive-aggressive or silly with your sign off
Do wrap up with a thank you and say that you look forward to hearing from them and end with a proper call to action. But don’t say the likes of ‘I expect to hear from you very soon’ as it sounds like a threat.
As to whether you use ‘Yours’, ‘Regards’, ‘Best Wishes’ or ‘Sincerely’ – they’re all fine. Avoid ‘Cheers’ – you’re not down the pub. Similarly ‘Best’. Best what? ‘Thanks in advance’ is just arrogant and ‘Thanks’ is just boring. Don’t accidentally sign off with ‘Love’ either or worse, leave kisses. This isn’t a letter to Father Christmas. Even worse ‘Thx’. You are not a child on WhatsApp.
Be grown up, meticulous, thorough and treat it as a sales pitch for product YOU, and your cover letter will be anything but uninspiring – and it’ll get those recruiters reading your incredible CV.