Why tailoring the cover letter is CRITICAL - James Caan

Why tailoring the cover letter is CRITICAL - James Caan

Cover Letter Advice

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So, you’ve got your CV prepared and you’ve seen a job you want to apply for.

Do you just send your CV out and leave it at that?  Of course not.  If you really want a particular job and you have exactly what it takes to do it, then a short, meaningful cover letter is your way of saying so. In fact, it’s vital that you attach one.

A good cover letter takes time and effort because it makes you think hard about the job you’re applying for. If you don’t do one then it’s probably because you’re being a bit lazy, or youare not really passionate about the job. Either way it’s not a good start to getting the job you really want.

I’m an employer so try to think about it from my point of view. A good cover letter takes some effort on your part, but it saves me valuable time. If it gets to the point and, even better, it presents you as a solution to my problem, I’ll mark your CV for closer attention. That goes for all busy employers.

A word of warning: if you’re applying online, you might try and write your cover letter too quickly just to get the application away – but don’t.  Don’t underestimate the importance of this introduction to you -  write out what you want to say and work at it before you go to the online application. It’s amazing how many times a good CV is sent of with a hasty, mistake-ridden online cover letter.

The same goes for a traditional hard copy cover letter. Write it out and edit it first. Keep thinking you are the employer and what you would want to hear. There’s no doubt that a good, concise cover letter adds some real power to your CV.

Okay, now the good news: there are only two main types of cover letter.

The first is the one you write when you are applying for an advertised job.

The second is the one you write when you are applying on ‘spec’. In other words for a job that you’d like but hasn’t been advertised anywhere.

Either way you need to get to the point instantly but with the speculative cover letter you can say a little more, as you need to establish what you are looking for.

Try to keep in mind why you are writing a cover letter – and it’s not to be clever or impressive littered with long words.  Your aim is to make your cover letter as effective as possible in getting you an interview and possibly a job. No more.

As I’ve said above, you need good english and spelling and you need to be concise and business-like. It goes without saying that you need to put the correct name and title of the person you are writing to.

Your cover letter needs to be no more than four to five short paragraphs. If you can’t say what you want to say in that space then you haven’t thought about it. So, no more than a single page for the whole letter.

If I’m advertising a job then in the first paragraph you need to be telling me what you have to offer that is directly relevant to the role. Start waffling here and I’ll switch off.

In the next paragraph or two you need to tell me how your skills, experiences and achievements relate to the essential requirments of the job. You can even refer me to certain points in your CV.

If you’re writing to me on spec then you’ll need to have done some research on my company so that you can write two, good, concise paragraphs on why you’d like to work for me (or my company) and what sort of role you are looking for.

As an employer, I am not going to be impressed by a cover letter that looks like it’s been churned out and used for multiple applications. So don’t underestimate an employer’s perceptiveness.

Drop in a paragraph on why my organisation interests you and give me information that supports your statements if possible. Anything that convinces me that you have done some research and have a genuine interest is a big plus.

Finally, thank the reader for their time consideration, (you’d appreciate it if you were a busy employer) and be bold –actively state you would welcome the chance of an inteview.

As usual, you need to practice and get some writing under your belt but the golden rule is don’t just repeat what is in your CV. If I’m the employer, you’re looking to whet my appetite, to entice me to read your particular CV – and get you in for an interview.