They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So when it comes to a job search, your cover letter is your first impression.
A cover letter can help your chances of landing an interview or cause a hiring manager to skip over your CV altogether. It all depends on how you write it.
How to write your cover letter
The first thing to remember when writing a cover letter is that it is not meant to repeat verbatim that’s on your CV. It is intended to get the recruiter interested in learning more about you.
It is essential to include the keywords that you can discern from the job posting in your cover letter, for two reasons.
One is that the company may be using a computerised applicant tracking system. These scan documents for keywords to shortlist candidates.
Another reason is that recruiters and hiring managers have many cover letters to read. Seeing the relevant keywords quickly and easily helps to draw them into reading your CV.
Customise Your Cover Letter to the Company
One big mistake is to address your cover letter to the wrong company.
Understandably, job seekers apply to multiple employers. However, when you make an error like this, it shows a lack of attention to detail. No matter how much research you’ve done on a particular company, if you send your cover letter to the wrong one, no one will bother reading it.
Think of the cover letter like a first date. Your date doesn’t expect you to be exclusive with them at that early stage, but also doesn’t feel comfortable hearing about your other dates!
Communicate Your Unique Selling Point
Everyone has talents that make them unique. Spend some time working out what makes you the best at something, and how you could contribute that skill to the employer. Then make sure that you tailor your unique selling point (USP) to the particular position.
If you find that you struggle to do so, perhaps the position isn’t for you.
For example, if your USP is that you work well independently, but the job posting indicates that teamwork is critical, you may have trouble phrasing your USP.
On the other hand, if your USP is that you excel at digital marketing, and the job posting looks for specific skills in the area, you should be able to include those particular platforms when you customise your USP.
Let Someone Else Proofread
It’s easy for writers to struggle with proofreading their work. This is because we tend to read what we meant to say, rather than what’s there. Ask a friend or family member to review your application materials before submitting them. While spellchecker will catch the worst typos, it doesn’t find errors where the mistake is still a word, even if it’s the wrong word. Using the wrong words like “its” instead of “it’s” or “there” rather than “their” weakens your application.
Finally, keep it short and snappy.
You’ve shown you understand the responsibilities, know the company as a whole, and highlighted some of the most substantial relevant qualifications you have. Now, ask them to review your CV and thank them for their time. That way, your cover letter will make the first impression, but not the last.