First impressions matter! For today’s job seekers, the first impression comes long before you meet a potential employer face to face. An application that calls for a cover letter gives you a chance to make a remarkable first impression. This article will discuss when to use a cover letter and how to write a cover letter.
Why Should I Include Cover Letters With My CV?
The short answer to this question is that it makes your application look more professional. It shows that you have researched the position and the company and that you care about the job application. An application without a cover letter looks lazy at worst and unimpressive at best. For a job application, your cover letter is your explanation of your purpose. Just as you would be daft to email your CV as an attachment without anything written in the body of the email, you appear unimpressive when you submit a CV with no cover letter.
A cover letter is an opportunity to make yourself stand out. Think of your cover letter as your marketing material. You highlight the most relevant and important parts of your CV, put them into context, and tell a potential employer why you are an excellent candidate for the position. It is also one more place for you to put your contact information. If your phone number and email address are more visible and accessible to an employer, you have just made it easier for them to contact you for an interview.
When Should I Use a Cover Letter?
There are many situations in which it is appropriate to use a cover letter. Here are some situations when you should submit your CV along with a cover letter:
To apply for an advertised job with a specific employer. Make yourself stand out from other candidates.
To send your CV to a recruitment agency. Explaining what type of work you are looking for helps the agency to determine how they can serve you best.
To contact an employer to enquire about job opportunities. If an employer has specific openings or unadvertised openings they will be more interested in you if you explain your expertise and what you can bring to their company.
There are more situations in which you can and should use a cover letter. If in doubt, take the extra step and write a cover letter.
It goes without saying that your cover letter, like your CV, must be adapted to each situation, and you should follow standard protocol for letter writing. Read on for more information and cover letter pointers.
To Apply For An Advertised Job
In this situation, your main goal is to make yourself stand out from other candidates. Take note of the job requirements and address these in your cover letter. Explain why you are the ideal candidate. Relay to the employer your expertise, skills, and experience, emphasizing the most relevant details.
Bear in mind that an employer who has advertised a job opening is receiving up to hundreds of applications. Address your letter to the contact person listed on the job posting, and keep your letter short and to the point. Refer to the last section of this article for guidelines to write your cover letter.
To Send Your CV to a Recruitment Agency
Recruitment agencies work with professionals from many different fields, so they need to know what your experience is and what kind of work you are seeking. When you submit your CV with a cover letter, you streamline their work and speed up the process so that they can help you more effectively. Instead of weeding through your CV and then scanning a list of open positions that you may match, they can identify immediately what you are looking for and what openings they have.
While we are on the topic of recruitment agencies, here are a few other considerations that you can include in your cover letter:
Time Frame: Specify whether you are looking for permanent or temporary jobs.
Role/Title: Explain what type of job role you would like. While you don’t want to be too vague, naming specific job titles may limit your options more than it helps, if you are looking for a variety of different things.
Options: Keep your options open. Working with a recruitment agency is a great way to get experience in a variety of fields and work towards that dream job even if you don’t currently have the necessary experience. To this end, as you work towards a “dream job,” advertise your strengths as well as your interests. For example, an aspiring journalist may say, “I have excellent communication and research skills and I follow current events and local news closely.”
Flexibility: Communicate to the recruitment agency that you are interested in available jobs even if they don’t have openings in your specific field. However, if you know exactly what you are looking for, be specific from the start.
All of the above points can and should be worked into your cover letter for a recruitment agency so that they know right away how to place you.
To Enquire With An Employer About Potential Job Openings
At times, you may find a particular company you wish to work for, but they have no advertised job openings. This doesn’t mean, however, that there is no room for you in the company. You can enquire directly with the company, politely asking if they have a need for a _____ (fill in the blank with your desired job title). The great advantage to this method of job searching is that you are interacting directly with potential employers. Even if there is no response, you can be satisfied knowing that you have taken initiative and proceeded as far as you can in the recruitment process.
Submitting a cover letter and CV to a specific employer as part of an enquiry is similar to applying to a recruitment agency. You need to introduce yourself, relate your experience, and explain your goal. What type of work are you looking for? Are you open to work in related fields or only in a specific job title?
A very convenient aspect of this method is that you choose the employers you want to work for. Take full advantage of this and communicate to the employer what you like about their company. Why do you want to be part of their work? What attracts you to them? Convey with enthusiasm why you would fit well with their team.
Remember to address and sign your letter appropriately. (More on closings in the next section). When contacting employers directly, you should address the letter to the HR Manager or Office Manager.
Guidelines For Writing Your Cover Letter
Use a professional font and format
Address the reader by name and title (if appropriate). If you do not know the name, use Sir or Madam.
Limit the letter to one page. This is your first impression, or your introduction, not your interview.
Break up the text by using small paragraphs. This makes it easier to read.
Include all of your contact information and the date you sent the letter.
Elaborate on key parts of your CV that are relevant to the position you are applying for. Do not simply repeat what is already in your CV.
Relate your experience to the job. Explain how your skills fulfill the requirements for the position.
Finish with a formal closing. If you know the reader, use “Yours sincerely.” Otherwise, use “Yours faithfully.” Follow the example below for capitalization and punctuation.
Note that sincerely (or faithfully) are not capitalized, and they are followed by a comma. Your name should be beneath the closing. Also note that the closing “Kind regards” is reserved for email.
Last but not least, proofread extremely carefully! Many a cover letter has been discarded without a second glance because there was a glaring typo in the first line. Use your cover letter to make a great first impression that will land you the perfect job!