The importance of a quality cover letter

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Although at this stage you have already tailored your CV for the position you are applying for (hopefully!) your cover letter is your personal statement to an organisation where you can really showcase why you are the right candidate. Don’t be under any illusion that your cover letter is irrelevant and probably won’t even be read, it most definitely will be and most hiring managers will be more likely to take a good look through your CV if they are presented with an excellent cover letter.

Below are some general tips to guide you through writing up a great cover letter:

  • Your cover letter will always be different for each role. Don’t fall into the routine of sending off the same cover letter for each position you apply for. Employers want to see that you are enthusiastic about their position and it will be quite obvious to them if you are sending through a generic cover letter. You will need to do your homework on each organisation prior to writing this up. It may sound tedious but such is the nature of job applications, it’s not easy. Thoroughly read through the job advertisement and have a look at the company website to develop understanding of exactly what is needed for this role/organisation as your cover letter will need to include points to prove that you have the background that is desired. The ad should state what is essential and what is desirable – you should only apply if you meet the essential requirements. For example, if you are applying for a social worker role and the ad specifies that you must hold a recognised qualification, only apply if you have or are working towards the required qualification. 
  • If you are applying for a position through a recruitment agency, prior to your application you may not know what organisation is recruiting the role so it is understandable if you cannot perfectly tailor your cover letter towards the organisation. However, it is still expected that you would meticulously read through the job advertisement and modify your cover letter based on the information provided. 
  • If you are sending through an application to a recruitment agency for a non-specific role it is still important to submit a cover letter. In this case, instead of trying to match yourself up to an organisation you’re giving an overview of your professional background, the kind of roles you would like to be considered for and what your current situation is. You should also highlight general information like whether you are open to temporary, contract or permanent roles, full time or part time hours and an indication of locations you are available to work it. While in this circumstance it is acceptable to send a similar cover letter to multiple agencies, it is advisable to research which recruitment consultant within the agency is most likely to recruit roles suitable to your background and address your cover letter to them. For example, if you’re a web developer there is not much point in sending an application to a recruitment consultant that specialises in recruiting medical roles. 
  • It IS fine to recycle the same cover letter template but please please ensure you change any details referring to the last role you applied for. It’s not a good look to state the wrong recruitment consultant/hiring manager, role or organisation on your cover letter and depending on the hiring manager they may skip straight over your application and not even look at your CV if they come across something like this. Be meticulous, it pays off. 
  • Avoid long rambling paragraphs. Similar to your CV, your cover letter should be relatively short and snappy and easy to quickly read through. Structure your cover letter into 3-4 clear paragraphs. This should include and introductory paragraph indicating the position you are applying for, a couple of paragraphs on highlighting your relevant background/experience/values and how they match up so well with the role and what you can offer to the organisation. Finish off with a closing paragraph to sum up your suitability for the role and to point towards information like your availability, notice period, ability to relocate (if required). 
  • There is no need to mention what experience you are lacking; this will likely become evident once they read your CV. Instead focus on what you can offer and highlight any transferable skills you have that make you a relevant applicant for this role. You want to try and plant this way of thinking in the mind of the recruitment consultant or hiring manager so that they will not discount you when they realise you do not have a skill or background that they deemed desirable. 
  • Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. Your cover letter should come across as amiable and professional, but not fake and robotic. Avoid use of too many cliched expressions and be yourself – and make sure you have someone read over this to ensure “yourself” is suitably professional.