An often overlooked or neglected part of job seeking is the cover letter that accompanies your CV submission. Writing a cover letter can be seen as a tiresome or even pointless task, but never underestimate how important your cover letter may be, and how it could help you to land an interview spot.
Did you know for example that a lot of very busy employers will only read the cover letter in your application to decide your suitability? Time-pressed employers will only give each job application a cursory scan to pick out certain desirable keywords and phrases before deciding whether it is worth their time reading any further.
It means that your cover letter carries much more importance than you may think. This is why it needs to be a well thought out piece of work. What you write in your cover letter is usually a summary of the achievements and skills that make you a good candidate for the job on offer. You may also write a persuasive line about what you can bring to the company and how it would benefit them.
Presenting a convincing argument
The descriptive language you use in your cover letter will help to illustrate to the reader why you are the best fit not only for the job but for the company too. You want to make them believe in a few short lines that you have the exact qualifications, skills and experience they need.
If you can do this convincingly enough, then you will have a greater chance of landing an interview with your cover letter alone, regardless of whether the employer will actually get as far as reading your CV.
You will need to use strong words in your cover letter – you don’t want to sound vague or non-committal. This is why you need to personalize your cover letter to match each individual job that you apply for. Having a generic cover letter that you use for every job application you make will not work to encourage the employer to read your CV or even believe that you are suitable for the role.
Positive vs passive voice
The biggest mistake any job seeker makes is to treat their cover letter as just a bland introduction to their CV. Most applicants go no further than writing a very ineffectual line such as ‘Here is my CV for your consideration for the role of Communications Officer‘. That’s it! That’s all they do to convince the reader that they are worth an interview spot. Not very effective, right?
The importance of language here is great. You need to use a positive voice throughout your cover letter to gain and keep your readers attention right to the very end. Using a passive voice, especially when signing off your last paragraph, will not inspire your reader to take any further action.
Many job applicants make a simple slip-up here. They will take the time to write some compelling text only to let themselves down by finishing off their letter with a passive voice. They do this because they don’t want to come over as overconfident or pushy to the employer, but you do need to leave them with a lasting positive impression of you in their minds.
Suggested phrases to use in your cover letter
Try to use positive and upbeat words in your cover letter, for example, say that
I am extremely interested to learn more about this role, and want to share with you how I can be an asset to John Smith Co.
You need to express your enthusiasm and come across as being a confident and capable person. Giving the impression that you are very interested in working for their company and can bring something valuable to the role will be very interesting to the employer.
Try to flatter the company if you can. Everyone loves to be flattered, so if you can paint the company in a positive light, you will capture the employer’s attention. Try saying something like
This position will give me a chance to further develop my passion for this industry through the fantastic training and career progression opportunities that John Smith Co. offers.
It is a great idea for you to explain why you want to work for the company and what you find particularly attractive about working there. This could be because of the positive company culture, the company ethics and ethos, or the increased chances of career advancement available.
It can also help you greatly to make yourself look and sound like you are already part of their company. Take some time to study the company culture and history and discover what sort of company language they use in their communications. Mirror their writing style in your cover letter and use the same key phrases and language as they do.
Express that you are geared up and ready to fit seamlessly into the role. This sounds encouraging as the employer will see that they will not need to spend extra time or effort on bringing you on board and integrating you into an existing team.
Finishing off your cover letter
Always end on a positive, and if you can try to finish with a ‘call to action’. This works much the same way as sales copy does to encourage the reader to either click on a link, pick up the phone or sign up for a newsletter.
End with something along the lines of
I look forward to hearing back from you with an opportunity for an interview where I can show you in person how my skills and qualifications will benefit your company.
Notify them that you will follow up your application with your own call to action. You can tell them that you will be calling or emailing them on a specific date to discuss your application and arrange for an interview date. Always follow up on your job applications, especially when you have stated a time and date in your cover letter. You will be surprised at how many job interviews have been secured by applicants that have taken the time to follow up on their application.
Good luck on your next job application!