So you’ve seen the perfect job.
It answers all your dreams, gives you what you want and hopefully more. Now there’s just the small matter of landing it.
A minor detail you may think.
But, along with every other person who’s also seen the same prefect job, you’ll have your work cut out getting an interview.
And these days getting an interview is the first hurdle of many, so that should be your initial focus with your cover letter.
Your cover letter should make the reader want to meet you.
You need to convince the reader that they need to see who’d behind this cover letter. Once you get in the door for an interview, its then up to your negotiation skills and persuasiveness to convince them to employ you.
So what’s the secret to cutting through the pile of other applicants, to make you a stand-out for an interview?
This type of writing asks you to outline your strengths confidently and concisely – sometimes a challenging and daunting task.
Writing a powerful cover letter requires you to use action words and descriptive statements to convey your qualifications and career objectives. Though the requirements vary from application to application, the purpose of the cover letter or personal statement is to represent your goals, experiences and qualifications in the best possible light.
Since your cover letter introduces you to your potential employer, it is essential that you craft a polished piece of writing.
Where to start
So many decisions before you start.
What information to include, approach to take and tone to write in – formal, querky, confident, contributory and enthusiastic or just plain ‘jump off the page into the face of the reader’?
Well, it depends on the job you’re applying for – what style is it?
There are loads of clues in the actual job advertisement for you to confidently know the angle and style to take in your cover letter.
Read the advertisement carefully as you prepare and start to write.
Research the company website, materials and online presence for clues on their tone, branding and philosophy.
Do your due diligence.
Replay the advertisement. Pick out the key words used, especially those related to skill requirements and mirror those back (as related to you and your experience) in your cover letter. Make sure you cover the advertisement, company and its ethics.
Illustrate your knowledge of the company and its goals. Then show your compatibility with the position and how you have similar goals.
This makes sure that the reader understands how you are the perfect fit for the role.
Mirroring creates a link with the reader, and they draw a mental connection between you and the job.
Mention what attracted you to the company and position.
Make sure you demonstrate your qualifications.
Weave in your strengths.
State your intent.
And make your letter distinctive –include an example or anecdote that will be memorable for the reader.
Refer to your attached resume, and how it supports your compatibility with the position.
Cover letters are normally limited to 250-400 words (no more than a page). Make sure each paragraph is tightly focused on a single idea (one on your strengths, one on your understanding of the company, for example) and link each paragraph to the other.
The final paragraph should invite some action on the part of the employer. It’s usual to ask for an interview (this mentally closes the sale of you to them).
Some useful action verbs
The big question
The letter should answer the question:
“Who are you and what can I do for this company?”
The following is an example cover letter (successful in getting an interview) for a PHP web developer:
Re: PHP Developer Position Application
Over the last three years I have passionately invested my web development skills and evolved my expertise to suit the changes in my current employers business, however it is now time for a change. From my understanding of XYZ, you as its founder and your start-up philosophy, I wish to express my interest in now contributing my talents to your future-focused ‘elastic team’.
Ever since looking into the Australian start-up scene XYZ has stood out for me, and the PHP Developer position sounds to be the perfect place for my skills and interest to now be applied. I therefore wish to submit my application and CV for consideration.
Positive, focused and committed to developing web businesses, I am looking for a stimulating role that will challenge me – as I thrive in a fast paced, ever changing environment. My skill-set and attitude to challenges works best when I am thrown in at the deep end and given the opportunity to learn new things. Some of the projects XYZ has done such a Project W, would be the ideal opportunity for my talents to shine for the benefit of the client.
As an analytical web applications developer with a strong focus on modern development standards and methodologies including Agile Test Driven Development (through extensive use of unit testing), I’ve utilised both existing and custom MVC object oriented frameworks on a LAMP stack. In all situations the emphasis has been on delivering intelligent solutions rapidly that add value to the business.
I look forward to talking with you soon, about the contribution I can make to the future growth of XYZ.
And an example of a different cover letter, (again successful with an interview) with a real estate agency:
Re: [Position as per advert – where advertised]
From reading your advertisement and website it would appear that to be successful in the position you’ve advertised you’d need to be detailed, people oriented and customer service focused. That sounds to be the perfect position for my skills and interest to be applied, and I therefore wish to submit my application and CV for consideration.
Although I’ve only had short experience in the real estate industry, I’ve learnt the hard basics and am keen to become more proficient in property management. As a quick learner with a high attention to detail I enjoy challenges and solving problems that may present themselves. Importantly though, from my research it seems that your company’s focus on using your [insert experience, service and talent – research this on internet from reading their company material] to deliver outstanding results for your clients is exactly the type of environment for me to expand my experience and proudly present your business values.
Having recently completed my Certificate of Registration I am keen to expand my knowledge and contribute to the right business. I enjoy working with people and helping in any way I can; and I believe in doing the right thing not only for the landlords/tenants but for the agency and work colleagues. I am certain these attributes and my easy going personality would be an asset to your company and team.
It is disappointing for me that my recent employment was limited to just seven months due to the company’s financial difficulties in the current economic climate. However, as it was my first position I have successfully learnt the necessary basic, practical skills for the real estate industry. It has also taught me a business orientation and I now understand the satisfaction in a job well done for the client and company.
I look forward to talking with you soon about how I can contribute to [Company Name]
What angles and information have you included in successful cover letters that have landed you an interview?