A cover letter is one of the most underused tools in the arsenal of the job seeker. While your CV is the place to outline the key aspects of your education and experience, your cover letter is your opportunity to directly relate your skills and experience to the job description in advance of the interview.
The cover letter enables you to highlight specific skills and experience based on the requirements laid out in the job description. When a prospective employer is considering your application, they will be able to more easily understand why you would be suitable for the job.
It’s not just facts and figures, however, this is your chance to sell yourself in a way that just isn’t possible on your CV.
By following the tips here and making the effort with a cover letter, your application will be more attractive and will stand out against the majority of other applicants.
Helping You Stand Out
Best of all, because cover letters take a little time and consideration, you will stand out by simply including one with your application, as the majority of your competition will not have included a cover letter at all.
The majority of those that have also included a cover letter most likely will have used exactly the same over letter for every application. This mistake made by most other applicants presents an excellent opportunity for you to give a great first impression.
One additional advantage to the cover letter is for those health and safety job seekers who have little or no experience in health and safety, for example, candidates who have recently qualified. It is not uncommon for an underqualified applicant to make it to the interview stage on the strength of a well thought out and structured cover letter.
What to Include in your Cover Letter
Firstly, format your cover letter like you would a formal letter. Find out the recruiter’s name, include the job reference and job title in the centre of the letter, bold and underlined.
The next step is to take the most important bullet points from the job description and cite your experience and qualifications, whichever is the most relevant, to briefly illustrate your suitability. A couple of sentences or a short paragraph for each point is all that is required.
Use frequent new line breaks to ensure there is plenty of white space on the page. Paragraphs should be no more than 4 or 5 lines long.
The contents of your cover letter must be different from what is included in your CV. Do not copy and paste from your CV.
Your cover letter should fit onto one page of A4, so make sure your writing is efficient to maximise what you want to say using the minimal amount of words.
Conclude your letter with “Yours Faithfully” and, if possible, include your digital signature.
What not to include
- Informal language
- Text copied directly from your CV
- Anything not directly relevant to the job description
- Overly long paragraphs
One thing to keep in mind is that not all job applications with facilitate providing a cover letter, especially if the application process is via a web form. In these situations, there may be opportunities within the form to include extracts from your cover letter, allowing you to make the key points.
If you are dealing with a recruiter you can ask them to forward on your cover letter on your behalf, alternatively, you can find the name and email address of the relevant HR manager and send it directly. You may need to do a little digging for this and even call the employer directly.
So it’s clear to see that while a strong CV on its own could be enough, to maximise your chances of success it’s worth spending a little more time and effort on a bespoke cover letter to really give you that competitive edge.