The purpose of your cover letter and CV is to get you to an interview. The CV and cover letter are effectively marketing tools or brochures showcasing you. It is critical that your cover letter and CV grab attention and succinctly convey your suitability to the role. It is your best opportunity to stand out from the crowd and secure an interview.
8 Tips For A More Compelling Cover Letter
Keep it short and succinct
Three paragraphs is a good length. You need to grab attention from your opening words. The first paragraph is your intro, second is the core of your cover letter (see ‘Be Specific’ below) and the third and last a wrap up and looking to entice the reader to call you for an interview.
Write a cover letter for every application
That’s right, every application. Yes it will take you another 20 minutes or so. Is an extra 20 minutes worth it to potentially land an interview? If not then why are you applying for the role? All too often candidates send applications to too many roles rather than focus on the roles they really want and take longer on those. Nothing suggests “I’m not that interested in your role” more than using the same generic cover letter for every application.
Address it to the name of the hiring manager or recruiter
Using their name will catch their eye and engage them to read on. It sounds simple, but it works. It also sets the tone that the cover letter has been written specifically for the role in question. Take the time to find out who the hiring manager is.
Make it memorable
You might be the first or the fiftieth cover letter the hiring manager reads for a role. At least 95% of them will have the same generic opening paragraph, yours need to stand out from the crowd. Be creative!
Writing that you believe you have skills that suit the job description is a waste of time. You wouldn’t be applying if you didn’t have the skills required. Write two or three succinct bullet point examples of how you have demonstrated in the past roles achieving the key requirements of the role you are applying for.
We are not suggesting you change your own style, but be aware of how the job advert was written as it often hints to company culture. If you know who the business is, review their website to understand their culture and match the tone in your cover letter. Avoid being too casual, if you are unsure it is always better to be too professional than too casual. If you feel its too big a stretch from your own personal style then it may not be the company and culture for you.
Don’t rehash your CV
You are sending your CV with the cover letter so don’t waste your time and that of the hiring manager by effectively creating a modified version of your CV. The cover letter needs to jump off the page – short to the point. Of course it will link back to achievements from your CV, but the detail on the cover letter should be very specific to the role you are applying to.
Get someone else to read it before sending it
Most employers value attention to detail and it is often a requirement in many roles. Spelling mistakes and errors in grammar may mean your application fails at the first hurdle.
Six Tips To Getting Your CV / Resume Noticed
Get the basics right
- Use an easy to read font. Nothing too out there in style, colour or size
- Keep the formatting simple and easy to follow. Don’t allow the CV to get cluttered, it has to be clear and concise
- Only use contact details that you can be reached on. Ensure answer phone messages for those numbers have a professional message
- Ideal length is two to three pages. There are exceptions, but not many
- Use bullet points rather than lengthy paragraphs.
- Save the file as ‘your name – resume’
Send a clear message
Modify your CV for each job application. It needs to read as a clear narrative in relation to the role you are applying for. Pick out and emphasise only your key achievements and experience that relate to the role you are applying for. We are not suggesting removing details of your work experience, a clear chronology of your experience is important, but you can limit the detail listed from roles that are not as relevant.
Get to the point
When you are looking at a website do you read on if the first page doesn’t grab your interest? The same goes for your CV, the content on your first page is critical. Too often most of the first page taken up with contact details – these should be the space of a header, a couple of lines at most. Next include a succinct headline and summary that clearly shows the value you can add followed by your key achievements listed as bullet points. This should all make it in to the first two thirds of your first page; any longer and you need to trim things back.
Facts and figures
Use facts and figures that quantify achievements that paint a clear picture of your abilities. Hiring managers generally have a fairly clear idea of what duties are required in each role. What they don’t know is what sets you apart from others.
What have you been up to?
Explain any gaps in your work history. If you don’t, hiring managers are left to draw their own conclusions.
Make sure you list start and end dates for each role.
If you have some ‘job hopping’ in your work history you should add your reason for leaving roles. Having to relocate city or a business closing is less of an issue than it looking like you jump from job to job.
Attention to detail
Your CV and cover letter are the only thing a hiring manager has to judge you on and they will be looking at your attention to detail. Spelling, grammar, formatting and content is critical. Check it, re-check it and then get someone else to check it.
That someone else that you get to read your CV should be able to tell you the sort of role you have applied for just by reading your CV. If they can’t you need to revise your CV until it is clear.