Getting your foot in the door of the company you want to work for is a bit of a battle. And with recruiters having to wade through an endless stream of resumes from day to day, it’s worth putting in the extra effort to make yours jump out at them.
The foundation of a successful resume is a cover letter that grabs the attention and encourages the recruiter to read further, so here’s a look at what you need to go about writing one.
Good structure is essential
The framework of a proper resume must convince the recruiter that an applicant has what it takes to fill a role effectively, and your cover letter has to be constructed with the same care and attention to detail.
While the specifics of the structure can vary, there are some tried and tested format points that you need to hit.
Start with a header that features your name and contact information, then include the date, followed by the name and address of the intended recipient.
The body of the letter comes next, and you should mention the position you are applying for in the first paragraph, and add the skills you bring to the table in the second. Include a third paragraph that hints at your understanding of the organization you are writing to, then wrap it up with a third paragraph that includes a call-to-action to compel the recruiter to contact you for a follow-up or an interview.
Sign off the letter professionally, and you’ll have got yourself a solid first draft, from which you can build in the specifics.
Brevity is a boon
Just as you should aim to make your resume short and to the point, your cover letter needs to be very concise and free from irrelevant information.
It pays not only to edit your letter down to fit on one page in the handful of paragraphs mentioned earlier, but also to ensure that it distills the information contained on your resume that relates to the job you want to secure.
Think of this letter as a miniature version of your resume. It can mention your achievements, experience and values, but must do this without overstaying its welcome.
If a recruiter sees a multi-page cover letter with overstuffed paragraphs in which you wax lyrical about yourself, they’ll more than likely toss it to one side rather than trying to process all the information. They’re busy people; respect their time by not monopolizing too much of it.
Consistency is helpful
It may sound like a small point, but it’s worth ensuring you use the same styling for your cover letter as for your full resume. Different header text, different fonts and different layout elements can make the two documents seem detached from one another, and perhaps look like you have not taken the time to customize them both for this particular application.
Demonstrate that you care about the company you are applying to, and that you have an eye for professionalism, by aiming for consistency in how you present your resume and cover letter.
A little research goes a long way
Lastly, if you really want your cover letter to hit the spot, make the effort to research both the company you are sending it to and the person who is likely to be receiving it.
A few minutes of online searching will give you an insight into these elements, and will enable you to add those personal touches and tweaks that highlight how much you care, which reflects well on you.
As mentioned earlier, this can be useful when writing the body of the letter, as recruiters will definitely notice candidates who have considered how their own values and experience aligns with that of the company.
It can also be smaller things, such as addressing the letter to the right individual, or to the recruitment department in particular rather than more generally to the business’ postal address.
And of course if you can get someone else to read through your cover letter before you send it, this will give you the outside perspective that you need to spot any obvious errors, so don’t rush it out.