The cover letter – the often dreaded accompaniment to even the strongest of CVs. While your CV is your go-to one or two page pitch of your achievements and skills sets, your cover letter or introductory email is your opportunity to personalise your job application to the role and company specifically.
It’s a chance to show-off your enthusiasm, understanding and ‘fit’ for the role. You’ll definitely want to use the opportunity to highlight any stand-out points on your CV that will impress your potential employer, and elaborate on any achievements your future employer will find particularly exciting.
The aim here is to entice the potential employer to take a more thorough look at your CV and consider if you’re a good fit for the role. Don’t forget, your application is likely to be one of dozens or even hundreds – so employers quickly become experts at spotting which cover letters are personalised to them and which are not.
Our friends at Milkround have whipped together a recipe for a winning cover letter…
Spice up your introduction
The truth is, your first line of your cover letter can be make or break – it can be the line that encourages the employer to keep reading, or turns them off completely. The standard greeting is ‘Dear Sir/Madam/Hiring Manager' but if you can do your research and figure out who is most likely to be reading your cover letter, address it to them directly. The personal touch always works but be sure to include their correct title. When in doubt, use simply Ms or Mr as these apply universally. It’s important not to be too informal though – only start by using their first name as greeting if you have had any prior contact before.
The rest of your introduction should be attention grabbing so keep it short and sweet. Include which job you are applying for and immediately outline why you have decided to apply. No life stories here please – a sentence or two communicating your enthusiasm for their company would go down well. Avoid using stock phrase as your employer will have seen these a thousand times before.
A dash of research
Whilst you’ll be applying for the job in order to further your career, the employer will be looking for someone to contribute to their business first and foremost. In order to explain why you’re the best choice to do that, you’ll need to know more than just a little bit about their company and about the role. Identify the three key requirements that the role requires that your application can directly meet. Research beyond the ‘About Us’ page on the company’s website – if you can show that you’ve been impressed perhaps by a recent campaign of theirs, or a recent innovation, they’ll see your commercial acumen straight off the bat.
A sprinkling of self-promotion
It’s harder than you think to big up your experience but don’t be shy. Don’t dwell on any development areas, simply stay positive and focus on the future and not the past, with an aim to end your cover letter on a positive note. Be confident in your skills, and share your achievements, including any statistics to back up your points (for example, I helped increase sales by 50%...). While you shouldn’t be too modest, just check that you’re not being overly arrogant either – it’s a fine line sometimes!
Finally… the secret ingredient
The final paragraph is meant to help you finish your cover letter with a bang, all the while reaffirming why you are suitable for the role. Reiterate your enthusiasm and state your notice period or when you will be available to start. Close the letter with a simple "I very much look forward to hearing from you in the near future” etc. and sign off with either “Yours sincerely” if you know the name of your addressee or “Yours faithfully” if you don’t.
Finally, read through the letter at least twice more to check for pesky spelling or grammar mistakes, and ideally get someone else to cast their eye over it. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to go!
A Bit About Our Contributor: MilkRound
Milkround is a graduate career resource with hundreds of internships, placements, graduate jobs and schemes. Committed to giving students and graduates career confidence, and that means conquering fears of finding, applying and making that first step on the career ladder. With Milkround you get direct access to employers, with no mystery jobs and no unpaid internships.