Getting a first 'real' job may seem as hard as winning a lottery. But as Thomas Jefferson once said: "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have it." So start gearing up your chances or getting that coveted position by doing two things:
- Craft a compelling CV
- Be it up by an even more stellar cover letter.
Because read the thing: when you apply for any given entry-level job, your resume will look pretty much like every other applicant. That's unsurprising as people with similar educational qualifications tend to apply for similar jobs.
So, how do you stand out? Your real selling point is not just your resume. It's your cover letter! Below are four dos and four don'ts for writing a great cover letter that 'sells' you as a candidate.
Do Know The Type or Cover Letter You Need
Yes, there is more than one type or cover letter.
If you're applying for a specific position, you'll write a standard cover letter. You can also send a networking letter - a quick introduction to a hiring manager or another authority in the company where you want to make a connection.
Finally, a prospecting letter is used to share your talents to inquire about any opening that might be available. Such letters work great for scoring internships.
Don't Repeat What You've Already Said in Your Resume
Your resume will be effective enough in demonstrating your work experience and education. Don't repeat that in your cover letter. Instead, focus on showcasing that you have the right skills, will fit into the company culture, and that you are enthusiastic about the position.
A cover letter is also your opportunity to show that you are a great communicator, as well as demonstrate your writing skills.
Do Personalise Your Greeting
Your opening greeting should be as personalised as possible. Ditch the formal terms like ‘Sir or Madam' or ‘To Whom It May Concern'. These kinds of greetings give the impression that you don't care enough to address the hiring manager directly.
If the job listing doesn’t contain contact information, do some research. Chances are you can get a name by looking at the firm’s website or social media pages. Otherwise, telephone them! People respond much more positively when you address them by name.
Don’t Struggle For Inspiration
Sometimes the most challenging part of writing a cover letter is getting started. Sure you want your letter to be unique, attention-grabbing, and well-written, but don’t get stuck in ‘analysis paralysis’.
Not sure where to start? You might need some inspiration. Peruse several cover letter examples. They should help you with ideas on both structure and content.
Do Use Keywords
Hiring managers tend to scan cover letters, just like they do with CVs. Hence, include the right keywords in your letter to command more attention, and help ensure that you move through the application process.
To find the right keywords, simply mine the job listing. Look for mandatory skills, years of experience, desired personality traits, and required education. Then, add those to your cover letter.
Be sure to use a light touch. Your goal is to show that you are qualified, not to use as many keywords as possible.
Do Write a Different Letter For Each Application
You wouldn’t mass distribute the same CV to multiple employers. You shouldn’t do that with your cover letter either. Instead, make changes to each cover letter you submit in your job search. Show that you have made some research on the company and the position you are seeking.
Don’t Exceed a Single Page
Everything you need to express in your cover letter can be covered in just four or five paragraphs. Your cover letter should certainly never spill onto a second page. If you’ve got great ideas and insights that don’t fit on one page, save them for the interview.
Don’t Forget to Proofread
Because your cover letter will only contain a few paragraphs, even the smallest mistakes are going to stand out. You’ll need to proofread thoroughly to catch and fix those odd spelling and grammar mishaps.
If you can, ask one or two people to review your cover letter for you. They may be able to help you ‘see’ awkward phrasing or other issues you may have missed. If that’s not possible read your letter out loud. This is a very helpful technique for ensuring that your cover is clear, coherent, and has the impact that you want.
Your cover letter is an important element or your application packet. It is the document that you will use to demonstrate your interest, enthusiasm, and fit for the job you want. Take your time and write a customized cover letter for each position, and follow the dos and don'ts here as a guide!
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