Thursday, 6 March 2014

How to Write a Cover Letter

How to write a Cover letter is a question that I get asked time and time again and as always I answer this question with a “depends who your sending it to”.  As per my previous articles, I would honestly not waste your time sending a cover letter to a recruitment company as they will not read it, however if you want to send your CV to a company then a cover letter can work well. 
Its important to remember that a CV is like a 20 second interview, and a cover letter is like a 10 second interview as realistically that’s all the time that someone will spend reading them.  In that 10 seconds you need to make sure that your cover letter has sufficient impact to make the reader want to know more about you.
A cover letter should not just repeat what you are about to state in your CV but be a focused sales pitch with the result that it gives the reader the firm impression that you are the right candidate for this job.

Do your Research
Before you start writing your cover letter you will need to do some research.  If your not going to target your cover letter to a specific company and opportunity then in all honesty, don’t bother writing it in the first place.  The best way to do this research in on the internet and a quick search for the companies website will give you all the information on what the company does and who their competitors are.  You can then use this information in your cover letter which will show an employer that you are interested in working for this specific company.

To who it may it may concern
When writing your cover letter you need to make sure that you address it to the right person.  Using “dear hiring manager” or “to who it may concern” is really not acceptable this days and you should not use this.  You also do no want to your email or letter going to the wrong person and therefore not getting the result that you deserve.
If you are applying to a job advertised online, there will usually be a contact name on the advert which you should use.  If you are sending your CV to a company that is not advertising a specific job then most likely you will not know the name of who to send your CV to .  In this case you need to try your best to find it.  There are many tools out there to help you, such as LinkedIn (See this article for finding names of people you are not connected to), Facebook, and other social programs.  You can also pick up the telephone and ask who is the best person to send your CV to.

When you write your Cover letter, you should begin it with the following:
Dear Mr Smith – If you know the name of the person and its a man. 
Dear Mrs Smith – If you know the name of the person and she is female and married.
Dear Ms Smith – If you know the name of the person and she is female but your unsure on the marital status.
Dear Sir / Madam – If you have tried your hardest and you really cannot find someone specific to send it to.

First Paragraph
As I have mentioned previously, a cover letter is a 10 second interview and therefore you need to keep your paragraphs short and to the point.  The first paragraph needs to be straight to the point on why you are writing and what for.  If you are applying to an advert that is online then it can be a good idea to mention that you “saw the advert online” 

Second Paragraph
Here you need the answer the question – Why should I be interested in looking at your CV or speaking further with you?  
You need to briefly describe your academic and professional qualifications and how these are relevant to the position that you are applying for.  You also need to emphasize what you can do for the company and what your goals are in life.  Make sure that your put work related goals down and not your social goals.  I don’t care that you goal is to become a chief when your applying for a Finance role.
You will also need to tailor this section as much as possible to a specific company using the research that you completed earlier.  You could mention things like “I noticed on your website that you built the company using teams and not individual performances, I am a team player as proven by my ……..”

Third Paragraph
Use this section to outline your desire to meet them in person for a personal interview at their convenience.  Some job adverts will require you to include your salary requirements.  My advice is not to put down your salary options as this will narrow your options.  If you are looking for 20K and the employer really wants to find someone with a salary of 19K, most likely your CV will go in the bin.  

Sign off
When you are signing off your cover letter use “yours sincerely” and if your writing a letter, remember to both print your name and sign it.