As a business owner, I have read my fair share of job applications; in fact, in one week alone I read approximately 145 cover letters!
Whilst I will profess that this in no way makes me an expert – I feel it does put me in a great position to give you some tips on constructing a cover letter that is enticing for the reader! So in no particular order – here are my top seven tips for writing an awesome cover letter!
1 // Get the basic details right
> If the job application requests that you address the cover letter to a specific person, make sure you do so. For me, if you fail to address your cover letter to me and instead opt for “To whom it may concern” or “Attention the HR Department” it will earn you an automatic place on the reject pile.
> Make sure that if you have other parts of the letter customised, you remember to change these for each and every application. Again, getting the “Dear Lisa” right, but then referencing the job I have open as a “primary school receptionist” will also see you quickly fall off my “review” list.
2 // Address the role.
> I don’t simply mean adding a cursory line to say that you wish to express interest in my Event Assistant role.
> Take the time to research my company, look at what we do and what we are after and reference this in your cover letter and why you are a good fit for the role.
> You have no idea how quickly you will grab my attention when I can see that you have genuinely researched us, our business and the events we run!
3 // Be upfront about obvious irregularities.
> If you are applying for a part time role in Brisbane and you are currently based in Melbourne – tell me why.
> If you have a recent 3 year gap in your CV where you weren’t working – tell me why.
> If you are really excited about the role but your experience doesn’t necessarily match up – tell me why.
> The moral of the story is that I’m not a mind reader – and I don’t have time to be guessing what’s going on. It’s on you to explain the stuff that may not make sense – and your cover letter is the perfect place to do this.
4 // Ensure your cover letter is really easy to read.
> By my guess – the average cover letter is about 350 words.
> If you use long heavy paragraphs and poorly constructed sentences – you will lose me.
> Consider short punchy paragraphs, bullets and generally making the whole thing easy to skim … because people like me really will thank you!
5 // Consider the length.
> Remember that the objective of the your CV and cover letter is to secure the interview.
> You do not need to sell yourself in entirety through this document – you just need to give away enough info to come across as interesting to the hiring manager.
> Once you have the interview you will have much more time to talk in depth about why you are a good fit for the role and the experience you have to back this up.
> As a rule of thumb, I expect all cover letters to fit onto a single page and ideally, if you can reduce that to 3/4 of a page (approximately 300 words) – even better.
6 // Count the number of times you say “I” or “Me.”
> It can be a little confronting, but I challenge you to get your red pen out and circle every time you say I or me or my in your cover letter.
> I love doing this exercise with people I mentor because when you challenge someone to look at this part of their cover letter, you will quickly realise that you are writing all about what you want and what the company and role can do for you – rather than spinning it around and telling the hiring manager what you can do for them (you know, the person who is going to pay you).
I’ll give you two examples:
a) I am very interested in the field of Events Marketing and I would love an opportunity to work on my skills in this area.
b) I wish to express my interest in you Event Assistant role and would love the opportunity to become a part of your team and contribute to the success of Bright Conferences.
One is all about you … and one is about how you can become an asset to me!
7 // Be excited and show some of your personality!
> Yes a Cover Letter and CV are a formal piece of communication – and it is important to give the letter its due formality.
> Ensure you show your enthusiasm for the role. Why do you love events. Why do you want to be a part of our team. What makes you so unique that we have to have you in the team.
> Remember the formality – but do not lose your personality.
Without a doubt there are dozens of other tweaks and hacks you could apply to your cover letter. But from my perspective, if you can address the 7 points above you will be a lot closer to keeping yourself on my shortlist pile!