Our Top Tips for Writing a Cover Letter
Many job seekers will find themselves wondering whether or not a cover letter is an effective use of their time. After all, the next few months are going to see a large number of people vying for jobs in a struggling market, and there isn’t any time to waste. But we’d argue that a cover letter is more important now than ever. Almost entirely because a well-crafted cover letter is how you can set yourself apart from the pack.
While you’ll find that your resumé does a lot of the heavy lifting in giving prospective employers the vital information on experience and expertise, your cover letter is where the rubber meets the road. A cover letter is an opportunity to frame up more than just the details, to outline why you believe that you’re a great fit for the role you’re applying for.
Read on here to gain insight and a few choice tips on how you can set yourself apart from the pack with your cover letter!
Tailor your cover letter to the job advertisement
Cover letters are an opportunity to showcase why you’re a great fit for the job. But in order to do that, they need to speak directly to the demands of the role. The company you’re applying to will have some criteria that they aren’t signposting too clearly in the job advertisement – but failing to read and account for the questions asked in that advertisement is a big mistake.
We encourage you to really dive in on addressing the advertisement thoroughly. Read it through more than just a few times. And take note of the experience level that they’re asking for, any skills or aptitudes that might help your success in the role, and ultimately any information that you can speak to in your cover letter.
Say something more
The common pitfall is to simply restate what you’ve already said on your resume. It’s important to recognise that you’re not being asked to say the same thing twice. Rather, you’re being asked to present your case as to why you’d be a great choice for the role.
When writing your cover letter, have a think about how you can answer some bigger questions about what you’d bring to the role. That might include setting out the approach you had taken to tackling the challenges and responsibilities you had in a previous role. It might also include making some points about your personality, and who you are as a person.
Saying something more is a great way to leave a lasting impression on those reading your cover letter. Just make sure you’re still speaking to the relevant questions asked in the job description and you’re golden.
Some quick tips on structure
We’ve touched on making your cover letter memorable, but what is easy to miss is that structure is a vital component in that. Structure is what will give your whole application that feel of polish that will encourage hiring managers to really pay attention.
There’s no big secret to it. But we believe that every well-structured cover letter has some version of these four points built into it:
- A quick introduction: who you are and why you’re writing.
- A brief snapshot of your experience, qualifications and expertise.
- A reference to your work experience that backs up your skills claims.
- A conclusion that issues your reader a call-to-action and signs off.
Follow these four points and you’ll find that you’ll have a cover letter that will both entice and engage readers and decision-makers. But again, ensure that you’re keeping everything relevant, and working to answer the specific details of the job advertisement.
The job advertisement may ask that you write to a certain word count (it might make a number of requests along those lines), but generally we would recommend that you aim for roughly the 300-word mark. This will help you stay succinct, while still signposting everything that needs to be said.
Some pointers on language
Language is important. It’s what does almost all of the talking for you while you’re making your more concrete points. The standard points about spelling and grammar are all there, but you can go a step further by making the effort to keep your cover letter free of any obscure language, or needlessly long sentences.
Choose your language so that you come off confident and in charge of your efforts. Don’t make any apologies for what you may lack – always seek to point out what you bring to the table. A great trick here is to read your letter out loud. If you catch yourself having to re-read sentences, or pause to catch your breath, there’s something there that needs changing.
Reading your cover letter out loud, or even having someone else read your letter out to you, will also give you a chance to ‘sense-check’ your cover letter. This process will also help you dial in some practice for your job interviews.
Keep up the effort
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented some truly challenging times to many Victorians. Many have found themselves on the hunt for a new role – and for a large portion of job seekers, this will be the first time that they’ve dealt with this level of uncertainty.
But we encourage you to keep up the effort and trust the process. As long as you focus on what you can do to keep moving forward, you’ll get the opportunities you’re working for. Next steps on from here are interviews! For some tips on how to prepare for that stage in the process, take a look at our Job Interview Tips.
At Australian Staffing Agency, we’re always on the lookout for suitable candidates for our client organisations. For a list of vacancies, take a look here.