Step by step guide to writing a cover letterWe are asked almost daily by clients if writing a cover letter is really necessary. Our answer is always YES since we know that many employers and recruiters don’t even consider candidates without one. Writing a cover letter is your chance to stand out from other applicants – so use it to your best advantage.

Many clients come to us requesting a ‘general’ cover letter that addresses a variety of roles they would like to apply for in the future. Whilst this can be achieved, we can’t stress enough the importance of specifically targeting your cover letter to individual roles. We advise clients to modify their cover letter for each role they apply for rather than just re-use the same letter.

It’s important that the recruiter immediately identifies with you as someone who could do their job well. This means you need to spend some time analysing the role you are applying for and matching the requirements to your own skills and experience.

Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be well on your way to making it to the top of the recruiter’s pile:

  1. Review the job ad – identify what the recruiter is really looking for and take note of industry buzzwords and specific language.
  2. Cross-match your skills – identify your strengths, applicable skills, experiences, qualifications, achievements, projects and general knowledge that relate directly to the role.
  3. Customise your content – recruiters want to see that you’ve taken the time to understand the role and explain why you want it. Take some time to do this and be explicit in communicating why you’d be a great candidate.
  4. Be succinct – clearly and briefly (no more than one A4 page) highlight your expertise. Use specific examples to demonstrate how you meet the requirements of the role. By all means reference your resume but don’t just regurgitate its content – include additional value.
  5. Quantify examples – if you can, use numbers, percentages or specific results to demonstrate successful outcomes. Try not to make generalised statements about what you can do or have done – back these up with concrete examples.
  6. Highlight the right expertise – if your background is extensive, start culling. Think about what’s important for the role you’re applying for – recruiters are interested in your skills, experience and accomplishments that directly relate to the role they’re recruiting for.
  7. Don’t apologise for what you don’t have – don’t be tempted to mention limitations or areas of partial experience. Instead focus on the positives and any transferable skills.
  8. Emulate the company’s ‘voice’ – after taking note of any industry buzzwords and specific language in Step 1, show you understand the company’s environment and culture by mirroring the same language in your letter.
  9. Use bullet points and white space – break up your letter with bullet points to highlight specific areas of expertise. Make your letter easy to scan and ensure your bullet points address all the main requirements of the role.
  10. Add value – research the company and mention why you would like to work there – highlight similar roles you’ve held or companies you’ve worked for and how that experience might help you succeed in this role. Mention a current company or industry issue you’re aware of and how you might be able to contribute to solving it.
  11. Request contact – include your contact details (at least email and mobile) in a prominent position and ask for an opportunity to discuss your suitability further.

It’s not that difficult to stand out from other candidates – just including a tailored cover letter will often put you ahead of the majority of candidates! Even in job ads that have not specifically requested a cover letter – we always recommend sending one that highlights the important parts of your background. Doing so creates a more concise and targeted picture of you and the value you can bring to the role.

Would you like assistance from a Professional Resume Writer to prepare a winning cover letter targeted towards a specific role for your next job application? If so, please see our Resume Writing Services.

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