Do you really need a cover letter when applying for jobs? I mean your CV has all the information the hiring manager needs, right? Sorry to break it to you but this might be the reason your application is getting passed over every time
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a single-page document that you include in your job application. This letter contains any vital information that might have been skipped in your CV – it’s your means of communicating your value and convincing the employer that you’re the best of the job.
I know you’ve come across job ads that clearly state “Send your CV and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org” but you probably thought to yourself “Wo don’t stress me, just take my CV like that” or “Does anyone really read this?”. I can assure you that the cover letter definitely gets read and the recruiter definitely needs it. The only time you shouldn’t include a cover letter is when the employer clearly states that you shouldn’t
What’s the purpose of a cover letter?
- To introduce yourself
- Talk about the job you’re applying for
- Highlight your skills and expertise
- Highlight your accomplishments
- Give reasons why you’re the best person for the job
- Persuade the recruiter to read your CV
Tips for Writing an impressive cover letter
Tailor your cover letter to the job description – I know a lot of people are used to “Copy and Paste”, it’s faster and easier to just edit some bits and pieces but it’s never advisable to have a “one cover letter fits all”. Your cover letter is like your personal statement, which is why it needs to be presented uniquely to different employers. Be sure to write a targeted letter – a cover letter written with the job listing in mind. Focus on the skills and abilities you possess that make you a strong fit for the specific job.
Include keywords in your cover letter – Take a careful look at the job description and note all the keywords. Words like “data-driven, customer-centric” will help tailor your cover letter for success and get it ranking high in any ATS. It may also have a list of ‘desirable’ skills and experience. Your cover letter needs to respond to all of the items on the ‘essential’ list. Back it up with examples of when you demonstrated those skills with achievements.
Make it easy to read – Some people are already convinced that recruiters don’t actually read cover letters but sometimes it’s all about the presentation. If your cover letter is easy on the eyes then it’s definitely gonna be easy to read. How can you achieve this?
- Use a professional font – Use fonts like Garamond, Times New Roman, Arial, Montserrat and Lato. These are the top professional fonts you can use.
- Font size – Font size should be between 11 – 12, this makes it easy to read.
- Margins – Set your cover letter’s margins to 1″ or 1½”, depending on how long or short your cover letter is. Make sure your cover letter looks filled out, but also not overly stuffed with words.
Use the right Salutation– Avoid using “To whom it may concern” or “Dear sir or Madam”. If possible, get the recruiters name or use “Dear Hiring Manager”.
Highlight your accomplishments – The goal of any cover letter is to give the employer reasons to consider you and position yourself as the best candidate for the job. When doing this, avoid simply repeating what is already in your CV but go beyond your CV and share achievements that will stand out. Expand your CV, don’t repeat it.
Make use of bullet points to highlight these key points and achievements, so that it stands out. Throw in a few numbers while at it – employers love to see facts and stats.
Highlight your skills – When you know you have the potential to do the job—but your past experience doesn’t straightforwardly sell you as the perfect person for the position—try focusing on your skills instead. Talk about skills you have to get the job done and certifications you have acquired over time.
Demonstrate that you’re a culture fit – Companies prefer to hire people who fit into their corporate culture. Job seekers also care more about the values and principles that companies believe in before applying. No one loves a “toxic” working environment.
To ensure that you’re a good match for a company’s culture and that your cover letter reflects it, check their website and social media profiles. Look out for their vision, mission and values — also pay attention to the tone of their social pages, this tells a lot. Tailor your cover letter’s tone and language to reflect these factors and attitudes that the company conveys in its materials.
Edit, edit, edit – Small and big errors in your cover letter can hurt your chances of getting an interview. Errors can make you look unprofessional, sloppy and lazy. Be sure to proofread your cover letter multiple times before sending it. Even consider asking a friend or colleague to proofread your cover letter for you, they might be able to spot things you have missed.
Save it properly – Whether you’re saving as a pdf or word document, it’s important to save your document with the right title, don’t be lazy — dump titles like “Yemi Cover letter 1”, “CV (copy of copy)” or “Yemi new new Cover letter”. Try professional titles like “Yemi Ogunlesi’s Cover Letter” or even “Yemi Ogunlesi Cover Letter for Content Writer application”
Show a little personality – Don’t be afraid to showcase your personality with your letter. Employers aren’t trying to read just a little, they are trying to read the person behind the letter. Maybe try writing from the heart.
Your cover letter is a great place to showcase yourself and share achievements that don’t quite fit into your CV, for example, successfully working remotely. Keep it clean, keep it simple, keep it as a page, keep it interesting!
Need a little help for your next cover letter? Simply click this link to download our Cover Letter template. You can also get trained extensively in employability skills by signing up for our free soft skills training course — it’s just 2 hours and you get to earn a globally recognised certification. Click this link to register for FREE!