A very grave mistake is thinking that you don’t need to include a cover letter with your CV because it is articulate and informative and can do all the talking you need. However today it is assumed there will always be a cover letter and excluding it sends a negative signal before you begin as well as being a lost opportunity to sell yourself further.
The cover letter is like the synopsis of your CV you can also be more informative and can elaborate on points more clearly in your covering letter than you will have room to do on your CV.
The following are the recommended guidelines you should aim to follow:
- Always use the Business Letter Format
- You should always try to address the letter to a specific person even if it means making several phone calls to try and ascertain this persons name and the correct spelling of same. Always use their full title either Mr. or Mrs. or Ms, never use their first name before you have been officially introduced to them and this has been requested. If despite your best efforts you have been unable to get a name use a generic greeting such as, ‘To Whom it may concern.’
- The Opening Paragraph. In the first lines you should always re-iterate the purpose of your letter even if this does seem repetitive and then try to grab the reader’s attention to intrigue him to read on. If somebody directed you to the job vacancy then always use their name e.g. ‘I was talking to Thomas Lee the other day and he told me about this job vacancy.’ Or ‘I am applying for the position of Office Manager which I saw advertised in the Daily Times and I would like to tell you about my relevant qualifications and experience.’
Always mention your knowledge of the Company
- Try to weave in a fact or observation about the company that may not be very obvious to everyone into your first paragraph. This will immediately let the reader know you have done your research and they will most certainly read on. E.g. ‘I was very interested to read about your new range of clothes for the petite woman as this is a special interest of mine please find enclosed this letter with my CV attached.’
- Let them know what your current position is. Always explain where you are at present. Are you completing a degree? Are you working full-time or part-time? How long would it be before you could be available to start a new job?
Why are you the right candidate for the job?
What do you have to bring to the job that makes you the number one candidate? Have you got work experience in the field? Are you completing a research project in college that is specifically connected to the products or services they are engaged in? Are you an expert in their computer software packages? Also take some time to research a couple of perspective employers and put some of this information in your letter as it will clearly show added initiative that will give you the competitive edge. Mention some points in your CV briefly
- Give some examples of your relevant work experience for the position and direct them to your CV for full details of qualifications and experience but don’t simply list the same points you already have in your CV.
- Have a friend or colleague check your cover letter
When you have thoroughly read your cover letter and corrected any mistakes you see show it to a friend or colleague or family member to reread it and they may see some mistakes you might have missed.
- Finishing your letter
Always close your letter with Yours Sincerely or Sincerely Yours i.e. keeping it professional.
What about covering letters for positions advertised online?
If you apply for a job on-line you will still need to include a covering letter. They don’t need to be as long as the printed form but in principle the same rules apply.