As a job seeker, it’s important to know that your cover letter is a companion to your CV. Although it is written entirely separate from it. Its purpose is to introduce you briefly as a candidate, indicating your career goals and objectives.
By Catherine Adenle
Essentially, your cover letter is a slightly longer version of the profile section of your CV if you have one, but it should not be overly wordy, ideally remaining under 100 words.
The recommendation by experts is that your covering letter should be as easy as aPIE (P = Passion, I = Interest, E = Excellence).
As a job seeker, a brilliantly written cover letter could be the key to open the door to a new job for you. If you are looking to stand out and not to follow the pack of 90% of job seekers who get the same results, be sure to compose all your job search and career cover letters with the PIE method in mind.
Passion:Write the letter with energy, enthusiasm and passion. Draw the connections between the company’s needs and what you, the candidate can offer. You build a rapport with the reader when you write with enthusiasm. Passion helps to overcome obstacles and liabilities. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, a lifeless letter reflects a lifeless person.
Interest: Using passionate words but having little to say is a waste of passion. Obviously, you must have something of interest to say that would result in a prospective employer developing a strong interest in you as a potential contributor to their organisation.
You must determine, in advance of writing the letter, what information will spark their interest in you. Investigate research and uncover the critical messages that you feel must be conveyed to generate immediate interest in you. Address the company’s needs as you understand them and draw the connections between those needs and your skills as means to meet them.
Excellence: Any potential employer is interested in knowing your level of commitment to excellence. Today, the job market is a shrinking, global village where only the ones that are ready to commit to excellence will survive. Most companies are looking for a few good people to hire and retain. Though, it may seem difficult to find a good position, hiring managers are probably of the opinion that it is just as difficult to find good candidates. So, it is imperative that you are able to package yourself for that first dynamic introduction so you will automatically be perceived as a potential good hire.
Do not forget to communicate your level of integrity, competence, confidence, and trustworthiness that most employers seek. Remember that a powerful cover letter should embody a compelling message, depict a professional commitment to excellence in one’s chosen career, and must be communicated with passion. Let your letter answer the following questions:
- What is the company or the hiring department really looking for? What do they need?
- What qualifications and experience do I have that are valuable to the company or the hiring department?
- What can I offer? What specific contributions have I made in the past that will excite the potential employer?
- How can I capture this concisely in my letter?
- What type of personality do I have?
- Why do I want to apply for this job and why this company/department?
- Finally, what separates me from the rest?
If you can answer or address these points, you are on your way to construct a winning cover letter. However, you must always edit and polish your letter, get two other people (your mentor, manager, or any other hiring manager that you know) to read through for you. It is recommended that a good cover letter should include the following information:
- The exact position for which you are applying.
- How you came to apply for the position, as this can be useful to the organisation in terms of assessment of recruitment procedures.
- Long and short-term job objectives, with brief reference to information contained in the CV.
- Behavioural and other strengths that especially equip you to do the job well.
See your job search as a marketing campaign. You are the product and your cover letter is the sales person.
In the attempt to fit this information in such a small space, you may adopt the following policies with regard to the writing style of your cover letter:
- Impress your suitability for the role upon the reader by describing your character and experience in a way that matches those characteristics described in the job advertisement.
- Vary your vocabulary carefully to avoid repetitions and overuse of any one word or phrase.
- Avoid using over-exaggerated adjectives
- Use carefully selected strong verbs like ‘managed’, ‘developed’, ‘achieved’, ‘initiated’ and ‘directed’
- Always write in complete and grammatically correct sentences e.g., ‘ I look forward to hearing from you’.
- Keep your style simple and your tone businesslike and friendly, just as you would if you were speaking to the reader of the letter
- The interviewer is looking to employ you in the future, not your past, so orient everything you write with a bias to the future
- Always end the letter on a positive note
- Finally, remember the Three P’s! (Professional, Pertinent, Punchy)
In addition, there are a number of layout considerations to be carefully thought about when writing your covering letter:
- Use a standard business letter layout for your covering letter
- Ensure that your letter is perfect in every way i.e. spelling, grammar, and consistency of information with the details contained in your CV
- Margins must be appropriate in order to frame your letter attractively
- Only single line spacing should be used and correct line spaces must be left after addresses, between paragraphs and before and after ‘Yours faithfully or sincerely’
- Typically, a block or justified paragraph format is used rather than the outdated indented paragraph format.
- Do not forget to sign or type sign your letter if sending it electronically. It is surprising how easy it is to commit this error in haste to submit application.
- Detail enclosed documents.
- Use a standard, clean typeface or font – highly stylised text is distracting to the reader and indicates an unprofessional approach.
- Career changers seeking a new direction must highlight those transferable skills as well as explaining the rationale behind their application and passion to succeed in their new sector.
See this video on Cover Letter and other job search tips
If you find this article useful, you can also see:
Covering Letter No-Nos…
General Guide Lines for Writing Job Related Correspondence
Experts Offer Their No. 1 Cover Letter Tip
66 Free Cover Letter Samples/Formats
Let’s hear from you, add your comments below.
Applying for jobs and work experience is hard. Selling yourself in just 100 words like we ask you to do when you apply for an opportunity with us is even harder. We know that. We all applied for our jobs through the GoThinkBig site too (you can read some of our stand outs here). It is not easy. The good news is of course that we’re here to help. We’ve spoken to some of the people who review your applications for various opportunities to find out what they like to see in the stand out section of the application.
Talk about the company/brand you’re applying to
One of the things that all of the people we spoke to said was to make sure you mention the brand that you’re applying for. They want to see that you know the kind of things that they do and that you’re passionate about them.
“A lot of people just say they want to work for O2 in their applications,” says Vicki Ferguson, Events and Content Manager at O2 Think Big. “I’m impressed when they’ve spoken specifically about the programme or product which is referenced in the opportunity description.”
And one thing to never ever do is say that your dream is to work for another brand or company. We know you probably didn’t mean to and it was a mistake that you overlooked. But check and check again and then check a third time, just in case. “I’ve actually had two people over the last few months listing why they love Vogue so much,” Matilda Stanley, style assistant at, erm, Closer told us. Not a great start, guys. Must try harder.
Show that you’re passionate
Saying that you’re passionate about PR or cooking or technology or whatever opportunity it is that you’re applying for is one thing. But being able to show it is another. “I like it when an applicant has given examples of things that they’ve done to show their passion and skills, rather than just saying that they’re passionate.” Camilla Smith, GoThinkBig’s Partnership’s Manager, says and she’s responsible for helping brands such as Blue Rubicon, ITN, and Reed Smith pick their applicants so she must know a thing or two.
Put links in
A lot of the people who go through your applications said that they like to have a look at the work that you’ve done. It gives them an even better idea of the person who’s applying for the opportunity and they can double check if you’re as good as you appear to be in your application. “If they lack journalism experience or training it is definitely heartening to see that some have blogs,” Chrissy Amer, editorial assistant at Grazia says. “I always click the link and look too.”
So make sure you include some links if you can – we’d recommend using a link shortening service such as bitly.com to keep your standout looking clean.
Do something a little bit different
Don’t be afraid to do something a bit different with your standout. You have 100 words to do anything you can to convince someone that you’re the perfect candidate for the opportunity. One applicant who was applying for work experience with Kerrang! had written their standout as a Kerrang! style review. It’s about being creative and doing something unique. “Avoid clichés,” Camilla says. “Don’t write what everyone else writes. I don’t want to read ‘I am a hard working graduate who is passionate about getting into media.’”
Don’t ignore it
The standout section has been put into our applications for a reason (to help us find the best candidates). Don’t ignore it. “Don’t write ‘see cover letter’ in your standout,” Eleanor Payne, our Opportunities Manager says. “It needs to include something that entices me to find out more about you and have a read of your cover letter.”
We appreciate that selling yourself in 100 words is not an easy task. But if you get a bit creative, think outside the box a little bit and mention the right brand you should be ok.
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