Every month at BAME we receive hundreds of CVs for a wide range of jobs. We can usually tell when applicants have spent hours and hours perfecting their CV, however what is often missing is an impactful and engaging cover letter. This blog post is here to help you write your best possible cover letter and shed some light on what recruiters are really looking for…
So why are cover letters important?
A cover letter (or cover email) is your first introduction to the recruiter. You usually only get one shot at making a good impression, so it’s worth making it count! The letter should highlight your main accomplishments and skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Cover letters are crucial because they give you the opportunity to promote key bits of information from your CV, engage recruiters quickly and separate you from other candidates with similar qualifications and experience.
It goes without saying that each cover letter needs to be tailored to each job you are applying for. This is where some of our applicants fall down. It’s a common scenario where someone has spent hours and hours constructing the perfect CV, and when it’s finally finished and time to write their cover letter, they are burnt out! Unfortunately, some recruiters will immediately discard a CV if a candidate has a poorly-written cover letter, so all your hard work writing the perfect CV would have gone to waste!
However, thankfully you don’t have to start from scratch each time. If you already have a strong and engaging first paragraph then you don’t need to change this, all you need to do is pull out the content from your CV that best reflects what makes you the ideal candidate for the role you are applying for. Taking the time to write a great cover letter template that can be tweaked and reused is well worth the time and effort, especially when you are hired!
Why is a CV not enough?
Your cover letter can explain things that your CV can’t. For instance, if you are looking to change careers then your passion needs to come through in your cover letter, which you aren’t necessarily able to express via your CV. If you have gaps in your employment history or are re-entering the job market, then a cover letter can explain your circumstances in a positive way.
A cover letter provides an opportunity to show the recruiter not only your historic achievements but also what you are capable of. You may well be applying for a job that has increased responsibility, so it’s a good idea to highlight why you think working in the role would help fulfil your potential as well as benefit their business.
Your cover letter sets the tone for your application. It can help show your personality and gives you the opportunity to write in a style that remains professional but is in keeping with the type of company you are applying to.
What are some top tips to write a fantastic cover letter?
1. Address your letter to a specific individual – Don’t write ‘To Whom It May Concern’. Doing this immediately makes the letter seem impersonal and shows you haven’t taken the time to find out who you should be writing to. If it isn’t clear, then speak to the recruiter to find out.
2. Write a strong and engaging first paragraph – As we mentioned, this is crucial in order to ‘sell yourself’ and keep the recruiter’s attention. Passionate first paragraphs are a good start – show your personality and interest in the field you are applying to work in. Presenting knowledge of the work the business does, through a short anecdote or fact that relates to your experience or skills, can grab the reader’s attention.
3. Include relevant details – Don’t regurgitate your CV. Pull out the key bits of information you think the recruiter will want to know and you wouldn’t want them to miss from your CV. Include your achievements and what you brought to previous businesses that relates to the one you are hoping to join.
4. Show how you are a fit for the company – Think about where you would be working and what their mission and values are. Do you use their products or services? Are they a charity or social enterprise that you admire and are passionate about? Use your cover letter to show that you are invested and want to be part of what makes their organisation unique.
5. Don’t include negative information – Concentrate on the positive aspects of your personality, skills and experience. At this stage a recruiter is keen to hear how you would benefit their company, not what your shortcomings are. It’s a good idea to end your letter on a strong and positive note, like you did for your first paragraph, as you want the recruiter to remember you for the right reasons!
6. And finally – Keep. It. Short. Your cover letter shouldn’t be any longer than one page long and proof read, proof read, proof read! Read your letter out loud to ensure it flows well and remember that a typo or spelling mistake could be the difference between a first interview and the ‘no’ pile.
Remember that the recruiter is as keen to hire you as you are to be hired – they are just waiting to read that dynamic cover letter that sets you apart from the rest. Good luck!