A cover letter is like the executive summary of your resume or CV. Often I get asked what is the point or how valuable is it? The fact is, it can often be a requirement of the application so you just have to do it. You live in hope it does get read and all your efforts don’t go to waste. A cover letter needs to introduce you to the employer or recruiter. You need to address the key headline points of the criteria with demonstrated experience, why you will be great in the job and a provide a little insight to you as a person. Your CV or resume is a factual document, there is no real room for creative writing or personality coming through. The cover letter allows you to shed a little light on yourself. Imagine it can be read independently from your CV so don’t leave out any essential experience you want to share. Let’s start by looking at some cover letter essentials and examples of how to apply our unique formula.
Before you start writing that cover letter consider what makes you unique? What is the unfair advantage you have in this process? Experience in the same industry? Experience with software? Shared mission and values? What can you offer that no other applicant can? What is the one reason the employer should want to hire you above all other candidates?
The trick is you have to fit it all into 1 page. The standard format is one page, a little like the ancient art of writing a formal letter. Read the application information as sometimes employers want you to provide more detail on your experience related to the criteria so may expect more than one page so read all the detail before you sit down to apply. Now we know the purpose of the document, let’s get into the format and structure detail.
In the top right hand corner you want to write your name and contact details. Below your name and contact details will need to appear on the left you will need to list the recruiter or talent acquisition person. Start with a Dear Dr/Mrs/Miss/Mr etc. If there is a name in the application take the extra step of giving them a call, then use their name in the document and reference your conversation. If the application is through an employer or you don’t have a name you can address the email to: Dear Hiring Manager/Dear Talent Acquisition Specialist
Further to our conversation in regards to the Director of People and Culture role at xxxxxxx it is with great enthusiasm I submit my application for the role. With 15 years experience across government and industry in human resources and change management I have have had opportunities to lead teams through digital transformation and department redesigns building and resetting culture through to directing tenders and implementing end to end learning management systems.
This is the paragraph for you to demonstrate why you and the organisation is a perfect fit. It is a chance for you to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and the role and to make the connection to your skills and experience. Essentially answering the question why would they hire me?
Why this organisation? Why are you interested? Tailor it carefully Demonstrate that you have researched the organisation Don’t quote information directly from their website
Why you? Explain why you are well suited to the role Refer to relevant skills, experience and knowledge Use examples rather than repeating your resume Tailor it! The Ending Reiterate your desire to join them Add a ‘look forward to hearing from you’ statement
I always like to use Yours sincerely as a sign off. Anything less is too informal for me.
So now you have a an idea of the format and example paragraphs writing a cover letter. Cover letters, like your CV take time. You want to tailor these documents to the employer you are apply for and make sure that it is not obviously a template (even if it is). You want to make employers feel you have made an effort to understand who they are and who they serve and have read and comprehended the criteria and in a way telling them all the things they need to hear to make that decision to shortlist you for an interview.