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Drafting the perfect cover letter is key to winning that job!
A cover letter is the real meat of your application, and is the perfect accompaniment to a CV. It should also state the answer to the imperative question every employer asks: what makes you so special?
With an inbox full of applications, an employer will spend little time reading each one. You have to be sure that your cover letter has sufficient impact to make the reader want to know more about you in the short time they have spent reading it. Your cover letter is a focussed “sales pitch”, stating clearly in simple language just why this company should employ you. Don’t make the employer work to read your letter. Keep it clear, concise and to the point. All of its contents should reaffirm to the reader that you’re the right person for the job.
Do some research
Before you sit down to write your cover letter, carry out some research on the company and the position you are applying for. Be sure you know exactly what the company does and how they are placed amongst their competitors. It is a good idea to state what it is about their organisation that interests you. Carrying out independent research shows to the employer that you have initiative and that you are genuinely interested in the company.
It is crucial that you address your letter carefully. Each letter should be tailored to each individual employer so that they know you have not sent it to another employer; you want to make them feel special. Make some enquiries to the department you are applying to or, if it is a speculative application, to the human resources office to get the name of the person who will read the application.
Your cover letter is an employer’s first impression of you and should build on your skills and previous working experiences detailed in your CV. In the body of the letter, relate your skills to those listed in the job description. This will illustrate that not only have you read the job description thoroughly, but that you are also a perfect match to the position. Try to use your own words as it will sound more natural, allowing the employer to get a feel for your personality.
The body of the letter should be around three paragraphs and ideally fit on one page of A4. The first should say a few lines about the position you are applying for and what you have to offer. The second should focus on your skills and what you can bring to the job. It should demonstrate how you meet the essential criteria listed in the job description. And in the final paragraph you should thank the reader for their time, and positively encourage them to invite you for an interview, emphasising that you are flexible.
Be sure to read your cover letter thoroughly before sending it off. Simple mistakes can be the difference between an interview and a rejection. The spelling and grammar function of your word processor will not pick up extremely similar words such as “form” and “from”. A cover letter should not be a verbatim copy of your CV, instead highlighting to the employer the skills you have that are essential to the position.
Finally, remember that you are selling yourself as an important commodity to the company. Emphasise your positive assets, such as education, skills, accomplishments and personal qualities and make the company feel that they need you.
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