Don’t let your cover letter become an after-thought. Believe it or not, your cover letter can be just as important as your resume or CV.
Most job seekers will put their heart and soul into crafting the most perfect and well-balanced resume, but their efforts will fall flat if they don’t give the same level of care and attention to their cover letter. Your cover letter may be more important than you think when trying to get your foot through the door for a coveted interview slot.
A study conducted by GraduateLand shows that about 50 percent of employers asked consider both the resume and the cover letter as primary features of an application. In other words, at least half of employers do read cover letters. Obviously, it is still considered to be a professional courtesy to include one with your resume.
Why is my cover letter so important?
Your cover letter can be the very first introduction that your potential new employer has with you, so you need to make sure it hits the right note to encourage them to go on and read your resume. If your cover letter is either bland and wishy-washy, too long and wordy, or too short to be taken seriously, then most employers will simply cast it aside, along with your resume.
OK, while it is best to keep your cover letter short, sweet and to the point, knowing how to make the best use of those words printed on that page can make all the difference between a yes, or a no.
You need to be able to capture your readers’ attention and show that you have a good understanding of the role being offered, the company as a whole, and how your skills and abilities are a perfect match.
What NOT to include on your cover letter
Before you learn about what to include on your cover letter, it helps to understand what not to include. These are examples of common mistakes that job seekers do with their cover letter, so make sure you don’t do these too!
The first thing an employer will do is to skim over your cover letter for anything obvious that will result in an instant rejection. These include poor spelling mistakes and non-specific salutations, such as ‘To whom it may concern’. These errors can show you up as a person who doesn’t take much care to edit and spell-check your work or does any basic research into the company to find out who to address your resume and cover letter to.
The above two examples can give the impression to the employer that you really don’t care too much about the role on offer, or even really want to work for the company. These two points are the most common reasons for a cover letter to be rejected.
Also, be very careful not to patronize the employer by over-thanking them for reading your cover letter. It is fine to say ‘Thank you for reading my application’, but it’s quite another thing to say something like ‘I would like to thank you so very much indeed for taking the time to read my application – it is very much appreciated’. Reading your cover letter and resume is their job. They don’t need to be overly thanked for doing what they are supposed to. You also risk coming off sounding very desperate – not a great first impression to make!
What should I include?
Your opening sentence should state clearly the role that you are applying for within their company. A lot of cover letters can be so vague that even the hiring manager isn’t sure which job you are after.
Make your introduction memorable by making it personal. You will only get a few seconds to make a positive first impression, so draw in your reader with a short personal statement about why you want this job. If there is a particular part of the job that attracts you to the role, tell this to your employer. Explain why you are so drawn to it – this will reveal a personal connection that shows your human side. This can really help you to stand out from a sea of other applicants who don’t offer any insight into their personal motivations for applying.
You may be tempted to write a whole laundry list of your skills and experiences and try to cram these into your cover letter. Your resume is the place to list your accomplishments, so by repeating it in your cover letter will give the reader nothing new to discover in your resume.
Pick your very best one or two job-related skills to quickly mention here to act as an anchor. This can show that you have the right knowledge and skills they are looking for without actually delivering them your whole life story in one paragraph.
Keep your cover letter short to around 250-300 words long, keeping it specific and upbeat with a positive tone will increase your chances of success.