Nailing Your Cover Letter: The First Step To A New Job

As the job market heats up, you may find yourself thinking about changing jobs. The next logical step is to turn your attention to updating your CV. At the last minute before applying, the cover letter is often a rushed couple of generic lines that gets little time or attention. Big mistake. The cover letter is part of what makes you stand out and plays a significant role in securing the all-important interview. It is your chance to grab a potential employer’s attention and make a meaningful impact. Here are some things to remember when writing a cover letter:

The Basics

Getting the basics right seems almost too simple to mention but is ignored time and again. Get your grammar, spelling and contact details correct. Ask a friend, colleague or family member to look over it. Run it through Grammarly. Lay it out formally with your address, phone number and the date at the top followed by an introduction, a short explainer paragraph that draws attention to parts of your CV that you want.

Be personal

Use the name of the person who advertised the job. If you don't know who to address your cover letter to, go to the company website or call to find out their name and title. This adds a personal touch and shows that you care enough to take the time to find out their name.

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Tailor it

There is no such thing as a generic one size fits all cover letter. Tailor it to each specific role and company you apply to.

Be clear

State clearly where you heard about the role, e.g. 'I am responding to your advert for a Marketing Executive.' If you are applying speculatively, say something like- 'I am sending you my application speculatively as I like your recent IMAGE Publications. Should a role in your Digital Department open up, please keep me in mind.' If a friend referred you ask for an email introduction first and then be clear in your Cover Letter, ‘My friend, Mary Bell, who works in Dublin office introduced us by email and I am following up with my CV.'

Keep it short

Your cover letter should never exceed one A4 page. It should be personal, clear and concise  Always ask yourself what problem am I solving for the person reading my cover letter and what do I want to draw their attention to.  

Give information

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Use your second paragraph to add detail to your CV. It can fill in any blanks or draw attention to something you want to highlight. For example, if you have a time lapse on your CV because you were traveling, if you took time out to change career or paused your career to care for your children or a sick family member, explain that now. If the gap is there, don’t be afraid of it, own it clarify it. Leave no doubts or unanswered questions.

How to end  

End the cover letter with a single sentence thanking the person for taking the time to read your CV & Cover letter. Sign off using ‘Yours sincerely'.

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When finished writing and editing, move onto your CV which will be the focus of next week’s article.   

When changing job or career, use every opportunity at your disposal to make a good impression and get the coveted interview.

Use the tips above to make your cover letter stand out from the pile. It might just make all the difference in getting you through to the next stage of the application process. Remember, if you don’t design a career that you love, someone will do it for you. And you may not like their version. Good luck!

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