For anyone looking for a job, presenting a good cover letter along with your CV or resume can often help to make or break your chances of landing an interview.
Your cover letter acts to support your CV or resume by providing a brief overview of your key skills and abilities that make you a perfect fit for the job on offer. However, many job seekers make a terrible mistake here by trying to include too much information on their cover letter.
While there is no need to include absolutely everything on your cover letter, knowing exactly what to include and how much to leave out can be a tricky subject. If you are clever with your cover letter you can use it as a tool to help keep your CV or resume shorter and more readable, but without losing any valuable content.
How to complement your CV or resume
You can use your cover letter to complement your resume by including the essential key information that your prospective new employer wants to see in a job candidate. Making sure that it includes essential keywords and phrases that have been used by the employer in the job advertisement and job description will help your application to stand out.
While your essential information is contained within your CV, you want your cover letter to act as a temptation to encourage the employer to take your job application seriously and be compelled to read through your information.
This is why we would never recommend having a stale and generic cover letter kept on file that you simply trot out for each job application you make. It may seem like a good idea because of its obvious time-saving value. However, unless you take the time to re-write your cover letter to suit the job that you are applying for, a generic cover letter is a complete waste of time.
Why re-writing your cover letter matters
Each and every job application that you make can be painstakingly long and detailed. It can be very tempting to use any short-cuts you can find to help you get through the slog of applying for many jobs at once. While you may benefit from using a professional resume template to help save you a lot of time and effort with your job searching, choosing to ignore your cover letter can be a big mistake.
You need to start off each job application in the right way by composing a concise and relevant cover letter. Your cover letter might be the very first document that your prospective new employer will read, so you should always keep this fact at the front of your mind when you are putting it together.
What first impression you make with your cover letter will impact on whether the employer will bother to go on to read your resume or not.
Cover letter length considerations
Try not to cram too much information in here. Your resume is the place to detail your educational background, your personal details and your work experience. Your cover letter isn’t!
Grab the employers’ attention by getting straight to the point, capture their interest and encourage them to want to find out more about you. This means not padding out your cover letter with any personal info or work history that isn’t directly relevant to the job in hand.
You also need to consider a condition called ‘reader fatigue’. Put yourself into the shoes of the employer for a minute. They may face having to read through 70 or more prospective job applications in search of the perfect candidate. Cover letters with long blocks of text and multiple-pages are not going to inspire them to read through thoroughly.
The employer will want to save time having to wade through numerous job candidates by simply skimming over the content of each cover letter and look for the desired keywords and key phrases that are relevant to the role on offer.
Avoid writing long paragraphs and sentences as much as possible. You don’t need to elaborate or go into great detail, include only those that will make the employer more curious about you.
So what is the ideal cover letter length?
Obviously, your cover letter should be longer than just a few scant lines, but you don’t want to bore the socks off the employer with a very text-heavy letter either.
Most employment and recruiting experts recommend that a cover letter is less than one side of A4 paper. However, with many cover letters being sent via email these days, try not to send anything longer than three or four short paragraphs. If you want a rough word-count, then anything that sits between 275 and 400 words is long enough to get your information over without it being too text heavy.
Pay attention to your writing style
While you may become concerned about keeping a check on your word count, it is more important to make sure that pay attention to your style of writing and keeping your sentences and paragraphs short and to the point. Don’t use double line spacing.
Write from the heart and get everything down that you want to say. Then revise each sentence to see if you can trim the word count down by cutting out superfluous words or re-phrasing your sentences to make them deliver the point you want to make using fewer words.
Read your letter back to yourself aloud. Listen carefully to make sure the letter flows and is easy to read and understood. You may want to swap around sentences and paragraphs to help deliver your points more clearly.
Coordinate your cover letter with your CV or resume
You want to make your cover letter and resume to look as visually appealing as possible. This is why we recommend using a matching resume and cover letter.
Having differing fonts used between your cover letter and resume can make you look a little inconsistent in your approach to a task. Presenting miss-matching documentation can create doubt in the employer’s mind about your attention to detail and your presentation skills.
Keep it simple
While your cover letter can be a very important aspect of your job application, don’t let creating it become too overwhelming for you. Use a high-quality and eye-catching matching cover letter and resume template set that you can download in MS Word and edit easily with your information.
As you get to keep the templates forever, you can quickly and easily go back to your template to amend the details of your cover letter to perfectly tailor it to suit each new job application that you make. As you gain more work experience, training or education, you can update your resume template with great ease, knowing that you will always have a perfect resume and cover letter to use at your fingertips.
So, to quickly summarize:
- Keep it simple
- Make sure your writing style is right
- No longer than one side of a sheet of A4 paper
- Use short sentences and paragraphs
- Keep between 250 – 400 words maximum
If you plan to do some intensive job-seeking this year and want to save yourself some time and have a professional resume and cover letter to hand at all times, then look at our range of stylish matching cover letter and resume sets.