While CV advice is abundant, whether from workmates, parents or the internet, the writing of a cover letter seems more of a mysterious art.
Figuring out and using the correct tone, contents and format seems an insurmountable task, and there’s a whole world of conflicting advice. Short and sweet? Long and inclusive? Formal? Personal?
The tricky answer is that it really depends. But here are some always-applicable tips for creating that perfect cover letter.
Find Out Who You’re Writing To
One of the most impressive things you can do in terms of your cover letter is to address it to the correct person. A small amount of internet research should point you in the direction of who runs HR at the company you’re contacting.
In a sea of “dear sir or madams,” getting the right name down will show dedication and initiative – both very attractive qualities to a potential employer.
Make It Personal
Whilst having a basic draft for all your job applications is fine, you can’t just send a blanket cover letter in application for different positions.
It will seem vague at best, and won’t make sense at all at worst. You simply need to tailor your cover letter to the job you’re applying for.
Check the tone
It can be difficult to judge the tone of a cover letter. Should it be more like an introductory email, or more like a formal and professional piece?
The best advice is to look at the company you’re applying to. If they’re a young, internet startup, you’ll have more freedom to be casual and fun. If they seem more traditional, match that.
Read the Job Spec
The biggest help to writing a good cover letter is the job specification. It will actually have points the employer wants you to hit, in terms of experience, skill and profile.
Read it carefully, and check your cover letter against it before you hit send.
But Don’t Just Rewrite It
Try to use the spec in a sophisticated way. Rather than simply writing about how you’re bold, innovative and passionate, use your own actual experiences to heavily imply the fact.
Claiming qualities without proof is essentially worthless, so you need to take it to the next step.
Use What You Have
If there’s an aspect of the specification you’re totally missing, but feel that otherwise you’re a great fit, don’t despair. Try to think outside the box to find something in your arsenal that could be applied where you may otherwise be lacking.
It’s certainly better than nothing, and may well show imagination, initiative and determination.
Remember It’s a Letter
Perhaps most applicable to companies or businesses operating in a more traditional style, remember to format your cover letter like a letter.
Put your address at the top, use the appropriate sign-off, and give the impression that you know what you’re doing.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
It sounds so obvious, but it can be so tempting to just press send and finish the application. Don’t give in to temptation.
There’s nothing that will put an employer off quite like a sloppy, slapdash application. It basically epitomizes all the qualities an employer isn’t looking for: inattention to detail, lack of perfectionism and a bad attitude. Reading over the letter a couple of times can save you from a myriad of issues.
Annie Walton Doyle writes for Inspiring Interns, which helps career starters find the perfect job, in everything from sales jobs to marketing internships. To browse their graduate jobs London listings, visit their website.
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