In a sea of candidate cover letters, the aim is to get yours noticed. The best way is to avoid being generic, while clearly highlighting your abilities, interest and potential.
Not sure how to cover all that succinctly? These tips will help.
Tip 1: Always Include A Cover Letter (Unless The Recruiter Says Not To)
You may have heard people saying ‘the cover letter is dead’. It may be true in some instances, but we feel it’s still very much alive. Why? Because it’s your first chance to showcase not just your capabilities, but your personality. And it’s your personality that truly sets you apart from the rest of the candidate crowd.
The only time we advise skipping it is when the recruiter explicitly tells you to do so.
Tip 2: Keep It Short And Sweet
Lengthy cover letters may not get read in their entirety. They may also give the impression you don’t know how to get to your point. That’s why it’s good to keep you cover letter around the 250 word mark.
Tip 3: Steer Clear Of The CV Rehash
By simply re-listing everything on your CV, you’re wasting the recruiter’s time. Aim to highlight not just your most important experience, but most relevant to the job.
Tip 4: Use A Consistent Header
If you want to show the hiring manager you have great attention to detail, ensure you use the same name and address header, as well as font and font size across both your cover letter and CV.
Tip 5: Avoid That ‘Cut-And-Paste’ Vibe
Put yourself in a recruiter’s shoes for a moment and consider how many cover letters they’ve trawled through over their career. You can bet they’ve seen enough ‘Dear Sir/Madam’s’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern’s’ to last them a lifetime.
This is why it’s essential you address the recruiter by name. It really pays to do some extra research to find out if you can. In a pinch, ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ will do, but a personal greeting makes a far better impression.
Recruiters are also highly adept at spotting a copy and paste cover letter. To avoid going in that dreaded ‘no’ pile, avoid buzzwords and clichés. Where possible, personalise. This includes clearly stating the job title and company, but also finding opportunities to share your experience with the company as a customer, or something you admire about them (their brand, culture, key achievements etc.).
Tip 6: Be Specific When It Comes To Your Abilities
Don’t be vague about your experience or suitability for the role. Avoid saying:
“One of my key skills as a developer is that I’m a great team player.”
Instead, give a concrete example:
“As my team members had challenges setting up a local environment for their development and unit testing, I researched, prototyped and implemented a docker solution to improve our workflow.”
This not only demonstrates your technical skills in action, but highlights your desirable soft skill of seeking to make things better for your team.
When deciding what examples to include, carefully review the job ad and description and pick a few that directly align with what the recruiter is looking for.
Tip 7: Story Tell Rather Than Summarise (Especially In Your Opening Line)
So many cover letters read like boring summaries of a person’s CV. Not many manage to break the mould. But you can with a great opening line – one focused on sharing a narrative. Rather than:
“I’m writing to apply for the SalesForce Developer role with the ABC Company advertised on the Finite website on 26 November 2020.”
“I knew I wanted to be a developer when I was nine after my older brother showed me how to mess with a webpage using the browser ‘inspect element’.”
You can also use stories to demonstrate your character and working style in other areas of the cover letter. They’re infinitely more interesting than stock standard phrases the recruiter will have read hundreds of times before. An example:
My team needed to rapidly develop a front-end prototype, even though we’re primarily a back-end API team. Rather than wait for our Project Manager to find a new hire, I taught myself React and created a prototype to connect to our Node.js back-end over a weekend. This enabled our team to deliver a valuable service to our customers in days versus months.
Tip 8: Never Underestimate The Power Of The Final Proofread
One of the worst errors you can make in your cover letter is one of the spelling variety! Take your time to carefully proofread word by word. Don’t read too fast as this often results in missing a word here or there. You could also ask a friend or family member to do a once over too, or use Microsoft Word’s text-to-speech functionality. Hearing it read out loud greatly assists in picking up errors, as well as checking your copy flow.
The final tip when it comes to proofing? Double-check the hiring manager’s details are spelt correctly, both in the address and salutation sections.
In following these tips, you should be well on your way to creating a compelling cover letter. But if you’d like some further assistance tweaking it for a role (or would like another set of ‘proofreading eyes’!), please let us know.