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A cover letter accompanies your CV as part of most job applications. It provides the hiring manager with further detail on how your skill set aligns with the role, what you can bring to the team and why you want the position. Cover letters also allow the recruiter and hiring manager to develop a better understanding of your suitability for a position.
Your cover letter will often make the first impression in the mind of a hiring manager, making it an essential part of your application. In addition to this, employers tend to favour CVs that are accompanied by a cover letter and will often specifically request one as a mandatory requirement to apply for their vacancies.
In this ultimate guide to cover letters, we’ll be discussing the following topics:
· What cover letters are?
· How to write a cover letter
· What traits and attributes your cover letter should include to stand out
· A cover letter template for you to use in your next application
What is a CV cover letter?
A cover letter is a one-page document addressed to the interviewer or hiring manager that includes your contact details, the role you are applying for and further detail surrounding the information in your CV. Cover letters should highlight your interest in the role and expand on your skills and experiences that make you best suited for the position.
Within the cover letter, you should align your qualifications, relevant skills and previous experience clearly to the job description to emphasise that you have done your research into the role and are keen to join the team.
How to write a cover letter
A good cover letter will increase your chances of being invited for an interview with the hiring manager. Below we go through ten key tips for maximum impact:
1. Address the contact mentioned in the job advert
Take care when addressing your cover letter to ensure it is received by the correct person - ideally the hiring manager - and make it clear which role you are applying for. If you don’t know the name of the hiring manager, either ask the recruiter, or simply write ‘To whom it may concern’.
2. Outline your current job situation and why you want to move on - don’t be negative
If you are currently employed, explain the reasons for your interest in the new role in the cover letter, whether that be career progression, personal interests, or even that you are just looking for a change. If you are between jobs or have previous employment gaps on your CV, use the cover letter to highlight the reasons for your interest, but also ensure you are upfront as to why you have been out of employment previously.
3. Show you’ve done your research
Being able to demonstrate an understanding of the company’s history, their area of business and the work they do, to an employer, reflects your level of interest in the role. Someone who has clearly made an effort to find out more about a company and referenced this in their cover letter will be viewed by the hiring manager as a more committed candidate than one who has not. Be sure to look through the company website, find out what you can about the company's culture, and come prepared to discuss its history and its evolution.
4. State why you are interested in working for them as an employer
Use the cover letter to demonstrate how the role will impact your greater career goals: how will you be able to use your skills and grow within the organisation? Is the described culture one you would be happy to work within? Make sure you can articulate the reasons why you want to work for the company and include them in your cover letter. If you need help in defining your career goals, or wants tips on how to hit them, check out our latest article on the subject.
5. Tell them why they should be interested in you as an employee
Most top candidates will be skilled and hardworking professionals, so it’s important to consider why you would be the perfect candidate and communicate this in your cover letter. Highlight your past accomplishments and any additional skills that would benefit the organisation if you were selected to fill the position.
6. Tailor your cover letter to the job and avoid repetition
If you’re applying for multiple roles, don’t fall into the trap of reusing the same cover letter. It should be tailored to the role you are applying for and in line with the job description and company’s personality.
7. Highlight your transferable skills, achievements, and versatility
Transferable skills can help determine your suitability for a role, so be sure to include any personal characteristics or personality traits that make you a better fit for the role and interesting to a hiring manager. If you have achieved great results in a similar role, be sure to highlight your success.
8. Tailor your information, but don’t slavishly match the job description
Where your skills and experience fit the criteria, mention the crossover between them, but don’t use every word or listed skill set to describe yourself in your cover letter.
9. Make sure it’s neat, brief, and typo-free
A typed, one page and error-free cover letter is expected. If your cover letter contains spelling mistakes, your CV will very quickly find itself in the ‘no pile’, regardless of how experienced or skilled you are.
10. End by politely expressing interest in further dialogue
Invite them to get in touch or make reference to speaking further in an interview to emphasise your keenness to join the team. If you don’t hear back, send a follow-up email or call the interviewer to touch base.
Traits to showcase in a winning cover letter
During a recruitment process, recruiters and hiring managers may receive hundreds of CVs and cover letters to review. Your cover letter must reflect the unique capabilities that you possess, which position you as an ideal candidate for the job.
A well-written cover letter is an opportunity to show the reader you embody the key attributes necessary for the role, which is why it is important to invest the necessary time and effort into writing yours. Below, we discuss a few of the qualities and attributes your cover letter should demonstrate:
What do you have to offer as a professional, and how could you positively affect the organisation if you were to be offered the role? Sell your key strengths confidently in your cover letter to grab the reader’s attention. This will increase the likelihood of progression through the selection process.
There’s nothing worse than a glaring spelling error on your cover letter. A mistake in your letter suggests to the hiring manager not only that you lack attention to detail, but also that you don’t care enough to take the time to proofread. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you check it over and have a friend do so as well before submitting. A fresh pair of eyes could go a long way in securing an interview. A well-written cover letter can also showcase your ability to effectively communicate via written text. A thorough spelling and grammar check is an absolute must.
A unique candidate
Use your cover letter to display your unique combination of skills and experience that relate to the job selection criteria of the role. Provide examples that will demonstrate a clear link between your knowledge, experience and abilities, and the needs of the employer.
While soft skills, as well as academic abilities, are critical for securing an interview, your cover letter should also demonstrate your experience in relation to the job description to the hiring manager. Be sure to include examples of relevant experience in your cover letter to highlight the value you would bring to the role and why you would be the best-suited candidate for the position.
A tailored, compelling cover letter shows you have taken the time to research the company and understand the employer’s needs and job requirements. It is an opportunity to express that you are enthusiastic about the role, keen to be part of the team and demonstrate the value you would add to the company.
Your cover letter template
Now that you know how to make sure your cover letter is ticking all the right boxes, you are ready to start writing. Like a CV, there is a certain amount of personal preference involved when writing your cover letter. Typically, most will follow similar guidelines, but candidates choose different layouts in which to order their information according to preference and the job they are applying for.
Below, we have provided a full cover letter template:
Dear <<Hiring Manager>>,
In response to your recent advertisement for the 'Human Resources Recruitment Specialist - MP123456' on https://www.michaelpage.co.uk, please find attached my curriculum vitae for your consideration. I have the following experience which is well aligned to the requirements of the role:
· Successful human resources recruitment specialist with four years’ experience.
· Experience gained in leading FTSE 250 global recruitment company.
· Thorough understanding of the human resources market having worked on both specialist and generalist roles.
· Multiple sector experience having worked with both the private and public sector
In my current role as a human resources recruitment specialist, I have:
· Established relationships with the human resources functions of leading retail banks and as a result now have preferred supplier status not only for HR, but the wider business.
· Diversified client base by 20% YoY.
· Increased job numbers across client base by 45% YoY.
· Increased productivity and revenue by 30% YoY.
· Been requested to serve as account director by one of the 'Big Four' and have successfully performed in the role.
· Managed multiple projects alongside day-to-day activity; organising CSR day, charity quiz which raised £6,000 for charity, client, and candidate entertainment event.
I believe that my experience to date is very well aligned to the requirements of this role, and I am confident that I will be a valuable asset to your organisation. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me via the contact details provided on my CV. I am available for an interview at your convenience and I look forward to hearing from you.
A cover letter can be a make-or-break factor in a job application, but it is often challenging to know where to start. By following the top tips and using the template in this article, you’re sure to create a cover letter that will bring your CV to life.
If you would like to speak to one of our specialist consultants for more information or to discuss any of our current job opportunities, please get in touch today.
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