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Running for cover

So you’ve got the qualification and now you want a job where you can make good use of your skills and experience. Trawling through the job ads you spot the perfect position.  It ends by saying “send your resume and cover letter”.

Cover letter!  Employers still like to receive a one-pager that will give them a little insight into the person applying for the job.  A resume or CV gives your job history and achievements, but a good cover letter can be a bit like a highlights package, short and sweet, and something that sets you apart from other applicants who may have exactly the same qualifications. Think of it like a sales pitch; selling yourself to score an interview.

A cover letter is also an opportunity to include information you don’t want the employer to miss in your resume, or to say something that isn’t easy to include in a formal document.

Before you start

  • Do your homework. Check out the company website, its branding, mission or vision.
  • If you can, find out the name of the person doing the hiring. If necessary, make a phone call and ask a general question, asking who you should address job applications to. (Gone are the days of ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, but don’t go too casual and start with ‘Hi’.)

Hit the ground running

  • There’s no need to give your name, that’s already on your resume, but it’s a good idea to state the position you’re applying for or quote any job reference. Your first paragraph should be a strong statement about yourself and why you’re suited to the job.
  • What you say should align with the position description and the organisation’s branding and mission.
  • Review the position description as you write your letter and check out the latest news on the company. That way you may gain a better understanding of why they’re hiring and it may help you decide how to target the letter.
  • Try to stick to no more than three career highlights or accomplishments and state how your work influenced outcomes. “I took charge…”, “I drove the introduction…”, “I increased sales…”.
  • If you can, throw in some statistics to back up your achievements, and highlight how your achievements might assist the company you’re applying to.
  • Stay positive. If there are aspects of the job you aren’t qualified to do, don’t mention them.
  • Your closing paragraph is your last chance to emphasise your enthusiasm for the company or how you’d be a great fit for the position.

Before hitting send

  • Read and re-read your cover letter to make sure it is typo free and sits well on the page, not all crammed up the top, or too gappy between paragraphs. Then get someone else to read your letter to ensure it makes sense. It’s easy to miss mistakes in your own work.
  • Make sure your letter is the same font and style as your resume.

Good writing and good luck.