It goes without saying that the job market has become an incredibly competitive place. In fact it has become harder than ever before to get your voice heard above the rest of the crowd.
In the current market, most recruiters will expect to get hundreds of applications for any post and it stands to reason that the better the role the higher the amount of interest there will be. Nobody is going to walk into a dream job without putting in hard work. Preparation, application and determination are three of the most important factors.
Trying to get your cover letter noticed can be tough but I would generally recommend steering clear of flashy gimmicks or stunts, especially if it isn’t appropriate to the type of business you are applying for. The starting point to any cover letter always has to be the job advert itself and even more importantly the job description. Any good advert will give clues as to what it is the recruiter is looking for in candidates. Try to read between the lines of the job description as there can sometimes be useful pointers as to what they are looking for.
Always tailor your letter to the company and advert. As a recruiter one of the biggest turn-offs is getting an obviously generic application letter with just a few variables changed. This will simply make you look like somebody not prepared to put in the effort. Think about it in the grand scheme of things, tailoring a cover letter may mean an extra 30/40 minutes of your time. If you weigh that up against the possibility of landing your dream job, it’s not a huge price to pay. Research the company, what are their values? Have they been in the news or won any awards recently? Putting this into your letter shows you have done your homework and are keen to work at the company, not just keen to have a job.
When it comes to writing style I would always try and make the letter reflect your personality but never forget the aim is to sell yourself as an individual. Keep the language as professional as possible, paying careful attention to spelling and grammar, but don’t go over the top with jargon. Also make sure you are concise; people don’t want to read pages and pages.
Of course you need to get over some key messages about yourself in terms of experience, background and qualifications but there are other equally important points you have to make. What all prospective employers want to see is initiative, ambition, creativity and enthusiasm. This is what you need to convey. When you are talking about a specific strength of yours, explain exactly why that would benefit them. This is important because simply saying what you’re good at isn’t enough. They want to know how this will add value to what they do.
Give specific examples of key achievements in your career. If you are at the start of your career and therefore lacking in experience, it's perfectly okay to talk about key achievements outside of work. Once again, make sure you relate this to the job; what skills did these require and how will this help you in the job? Finally, be assertive at the end of the letter. Rather than ‘I hope to hear from you soon’, consider something along the lines of ‘I believe I can be a valuable addition to your company, I look forward to hearing from you.’
Until your interview, you are only as good as your paperwork and perhaps telephone manner. This makes your CV and covering letter crucial. They are essential tools in most job searches. Like any marketing document, a CV should help you sell yourself.
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Here are a few pointers to help you...