Written by Dave Cullen
A cover letter is your first point of contact with a potential employer. It is traditionally emailed in tandem with your CV and should act as an introduction to who you are and what you’re all about as a candidate. It should briefly outline your experience and explain your suitability for the role you are applying. As a result, this makes it a crucial part of your jobseeking process. However its importance is often overlooked because candidates focus solely on prioritising their CV. Although a CV is clearly the more important document of the two, without a strong cover letter your job search will fail to gain any traction.
Unlike a CV, a cover letter makes a personal connection because it is being sent to someone specific. A well written cover letter functions as a means of encouraging the recipient to read your CV. This provides you with an excellent opportunity to tailor your job application to the company and position you are interested in. Here is a list of our top 5 tips to writing a successful cover letter.
1. Do not rehash your CV: Avoid rewriting your work experience all over again, instead highlight the specific area or areas that are relevant to the employer. An example of this practice would be the following statement: “As you read my CV, I would like to direct your attention to the three years I worked as General Manager of the ABC Company. This role required many of the skills needed for this position”.
2. Make it personal: Take the time to conduct some research and find out exactly who you need to send your cover letter to. This demonstrates initiative and resourcefulness. An example of the kinds of statements you should make would be: “Dear Mary, further to our discussion on Thursday…”, or “Dear Mary, as per the instruction of your colleague John, I am writing to you to apply for the position of….”
3. Explain why they should hire you: This is your opportunity to sell yourself. Explain what sets you apart from the other candidates. Examples of such personal statements might look something like this: “I possess the skills and experience you require, however I can also offer you my additional qualities of ambition, desire and determination to succeed. I am results driven and strive to exceed company targets.”
4. Keep it concise, avoid spelling errors: It seems like such an obvious piece of advice, but simple mistakes can prove costly to an otherwise perfectly qualified candidate. Use a spell checker and have a friend or colleague proof read it before you send. Your cover letter should not exceed half an A4 page.
5. Show your gratitude: As you conclude your cover letter, outline how much you appreciate the employer taking the time to consider your candidacy. Express your eagerness to become a part of the organisation and how much you look forward to hearing from them.
And finally, don’t forget to attach your CV to your cover letter email; you’d be surprised how many applicants make this embarrassing mistake. For more career and jobseeking advice, check out our other blogs: Peter Cosgrove talks tricky interview questions on Newstalk Breakfast and How to improve your work-life balance.