The job of the resume is to get you an interview, but what if your resume doesn’t even get read?
The job of the resume is to get you an interview, but what if your resume doesn’t even get read? One way of increasing your chances is attaching a great cover letter, as the job of the cover letter is to entice the reader to learn more about you and read that resume.
A well written cover letter will help your resume or CV stand out from the crowd. A hiring manager, recruiter or HR person will be snowed under with applications such as yours and therefore you had better make yours be special.
The key question/problem the cover letter should answer/solve is “Why select you?” This means you have to clearly state what you do better than others, what makes you unique and how the reader would be making a mistake by not considering you for the position. Here are a few guidelines on putting together a killer cover letter today:
Make sure you put the typical details at the top of the page, get all the details right and check them a few times before sending off:
- Your Address
- Mr. /Ms. (Name of Employer)
- Company Name
- Their Address
- Dear Mr./Ms. (Their Name Again)
We begin with stating our business, basically telling the reader what job you are applying for and why. Let’s keep this short and to about three sentences, cover these points:
- Reason for writing and which role you are applying for.
- Drop any names of people you know in the organization here, e.g. “John Smith in your department encouraged me to send an application as he thinks I have the required skills to succeed.”
- Give any compelling reasons you have applied for the position or company. Keep it short and sweet, with the view to inspire the reader.
Here’s your chance to tell the employer why you are the man/woman for the job. Bring out some of your most relevant skills and experiences and mention how they will be applied in the new position. Pick out three examples of major achievements and provide the story to back these up:
- Start out with a short introduction focused on your achievements and how your skills and experience will be a good match for the new job.
- Use the rest of the paragraph to support and back up your introduction. This is where you exhibit your evidence in terms of specific positions/roles/responsibilities and so on.
- Keep this paragraph punchy and designed to impress, not to bore anyone. Don’t write too much about one accomplishment that you are the most proud of as you don’t know what the reader will think.
- Wrap things up with the final sentence, repeat the job title and company to further position yourself as the right person for the job in the mind of the reader.
- A short paragraph that simply mentions your attached resume, tells the employer you are looking forward to an interview and let them know you will be in contact by a specific date.
- Don’t forget to thank the person reading your cover letter for their time and consideration.
Your Signature (scan this)
Word of warning
A classic mistake is to use the same cover letter for all applications. This is counter-productive and the employer can spot it a mile away. The one size-fits-all cover letter will result in your resume being deleted before even opened.
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Tips and Tricks: CVs, LinkedIn and cover letters
What does a good cover letter look like? How long should my CV be? Do I need LinkedIn?
These are a few of the questions posed to the Freshminds team, when we were joined by CBRE to provide UCL students with a CV panel discussion and Q&A session. As a recap, we’ve put together some of the most important tips for any graduate hoping to get employed.
Cover letters can be a difficult task. What should it cover? How long should it be? What’s the point? These are all questions which can plague our minds as we try to wow our potential future employers, but thankfully cover letters are much simpler than that - or at least, they should be.
Be simple - keep it to a page and answer in three sections: “Why this company?”, “Why the role?”, “Why me?”
Be specific - anyone can say that they are right for the job because they are analytical, and employers and recruiters get tired of reading the same thing over and over again. Being specific shows you’re analytical and differentiates you from the crowd. Maybe you’re not just analytical, maybe you analysed 1000 data points using SPSS for your dissertation; be specific.
Be relevant - What follows your cover letter? Your CV. So there is no need to cover all of your experience, that’s what your CV is for! Your cover letter should be what gets your foot in the door. Your cover letter should just showcase your most relevant experiences for the role and your CV will show the rest!
If you can make it one page - Great! If not, two will do. Three? Four? Five? - is this a CV or a novella?
This doesn’t mean that the answer is to make the font size unreadable for the human eye, or mess around with the formatting. However, it does mean you need to be selective and tailor your CV to the job you’re applying for. Keeping in the main points which highlight your key skills will leave the employer wanting to know more and encourage them to get in touch to arrange an interview.
Read more about perfecting the CV in our article, The 10 Commandments of the Graduate CV.
LinkedIn is not a necessary requirement for job applications, though it is becoming increasingly popular to be able to connect you to your application. It is beneficial for employers to cross reference your experience, and even to enable you to be headhunted. So it is more and more an obvious asset to candidates and employers alike, and as time passes it will only become more necessary. So to get ahead of the curve, here are some LinkedIn pro tips:
LinkedIn isn’t like Facebook; you don’t have to be chums with those you’re connected with. Add everyone you know and those you meet. You never know who is going to help you, endorse your, or even employ you one day.
LinkedIn isn’t just a great tool for employers and companies to reach out to candidates; it’s also a great tool for candidates to research potential employers by looking at their backgrounds and getting an insight into what they might be looking for. (FYI you can turn yourself on invisible to avoid an awkward notification to the profile of the person you’re looking at- although it means that you can’t see who has also viewed your profile in the same period that you are anonymous).
As mentioned, LinkedIn is already a great tool to get found, but you’re only going to get contacted if you have a good profile. So ensure that your profile is up to date as a minimum, get recommendations from employers, tutors or colleagues, use a professional picture (not a holiday snap or the one from fresher’s week where you have a beer in your hand!), update your skills and get endorsed. All of this and more might just get you a job one day.
Associate Candidate Manage in the Graduate & Early Career team
Mike works in the early careers team, advising candidates and placing individuals into commercial or strategic roles across a variety of industries.
Interested in finding out more about your CV, cover letter or LinkedIn? Get in touch with Mike to find out more.