Writing a cover letter takes time and requires you to think about what the employer really wants and how you can highlight how suitable you and your skills are for this role.
Think of a cover letter as a pitch for why you want the job and use the opportunity to express to a prospective employer why you would be the perfect match. This document will provide a deeper and more personal insight into who you are and how your experience relates to the advertised role. Often overlooked or approached as an afterthought, the cover letter is usually the first thing an employer will see before they begin to read your resume. It is your first impression on the organisation, so it makes sense to devote the time and effort to writing an effective cover letter, so that you can appear on the top of the pile of job applicants, and not the bottom. Let’s look at how to write a winning cover letter…
Research is key
When you read a job post that interests you, you’ll probably want to apply as quickly as possible before it’s too late; but take the time to tailor your letter to the specific demands of the company and position. When faced with tens, hundreds or thousands of applications, recruiters and hiring managers will look for signs that you have a genuine interest in the role. Google the company, visit their website and explore their social media sites. You want to highlight the fact that you want THIS job, not just any job. By understanding the culture of the organisation, this will also enable you to reflect the tone and language of the company in your cover letter.
Avoid regurgitating your resume
Fight the urge to copy information from your resume and paste it into your cover letter. You want to include highlights that relate to the role you’re applying for without recapping your whole entire work history from several decades ago. Focus on your personal values and traits that you can add to the organisation, and why you would be a more suitable fit over X number of other candidates.
Address the requirements
Evidence-based statements are much more powerful than broad statements. Deconstruct the job description to identify what expertise, skills and strengths recruiters and hiring managers are looking for. Whenever possible, use specific examples and/or figures when talking about your accomplishments to demonstrate what value you can add to the organisation. Don’t just say that you’re great at “business planning” – you need to show how good you are instead of saying.
Highlight your soft skills
If you want to catch the eye of a hiring manager or recruiter, you’ll need to make sure that you’re showing your transferrable skills. And yes, use specific examples. How are you an “exceptional communicator” or “analytical thinker”? Give context around your skills statement to illustrate your expertise in that area, and demonstrate your true value. Identify the most technical and behavioural skills the position requires, and use this as an opportunity to connect the dots between your experience and the requirements of the role.
A cover letter provides a platform to insert your personality and expertise to impress the recruiter or hiring manager. You certainly don’t need to walk through your entire career path but focus on your most transferable skills, experience and knowledge to highlight your suitability.