Cover letter tips no one told you about
Cover letters are a prerequisite for all professional jobs. A winning cover letter is your chance to sell yourself to potential employers and help them see how your skills and experience and even your personality would be perfect for their vacancy. But many people make these common mistakes without even realising it. Although you might still go on and get the job, some employers will always remember those little errors.
Use the tone of the employer, not your voice
Many people make the mistake of thinking a job application is all about them. It’s not. The employer wants to see that you would be a good fit for the company and can adapt to their style, not the other way around. Harsh but true. Unless you are fortunate enough to not need a job, most of us need to conform to the standards of our employers and keep anything that might be a bit too quirky for work at home. Rather than selling your personality in your cover letter, stick to selling your skills and experience.
The job ad and employer website will demonstrate the tone and culture of the company you are applying for. Read through the “About Us” page to get a feel for the company tone and culture. Remember that you are applying for a role with the company, not the customer. Even though you might be applying for a marketing role for products aimed at young hipsters, target your cover letter to the company. Keep your language high level and professional and avoid using cliches and never, ever say I would like, be so happy to work with such a hip and groovy company, lol.
Use this research to prepare for your interview, when you can show them that you know something about the history of the company, some of their pain points and how you can help them solve these.
You aren’t as good at writing cover letters as you think
So you want a new job. You drag out the old resume and cover letter templates that won you your last job and update accordingly. Stop. Right. There. Times have changed, you have changed and your cover letter needs to change too. Cutting and pasting can lead to mistakes and can make you miss a great opportunity to sell yourself directly to the job you are applying for. If it’s been a few years since you last applied for a job, throw out the old template and start over again. Once you’ve created your new letter, get a trusted friend with a good eye for detail to look over it, with the position description to make sure you are addressing what they want.
Dream big, and sell, sell, sell
In a forum recently, someone asked if they should bother applying for a job even if they don’t meet all of the selection criteria. Can you guess if this was a male or female? Females are more likely to hold back from applying for roles unless they fit all of the selection criteria, whereas males only feel they need to fit around half to be able to do the job. Why would an employer take a chance on you and give you the job if you don’t believe in your ability to do the job? If you want help to build your confidence and identify your dream job, a careers counsellor may be able to help.
Keep it simple, stupid.
Employers sometimes get hundreds of applications for the same role. Managers are busy and don’t have time to wade through pages and pages of how wonderful you are. If you can’t say what you need to say within one page, include all the other details in your response to the selection criteria. Your cover letter is not a chance to re-write your resume.
There are a million articles discussing why your cover letter should be half a page, or one page, or exactly three paragraphs. But the truth is, each role is different, and sometimes you need to just write what is right for that role. Cut out the waffle, keep it as short and focussed as possible. If you get stuck on what to say, reflect back keywords from the position description with your own examples.
Send all your applications as a PDF
Yes, it takes extra time to save an additional copy of everything. PDF’s have a few advantages, though. Firstly, you ensure that your carefully formatted work looks just as impressive to the new employer as it does on your screen. It also ensures your application can’t be tampered with and makes sure any grammar or spelling errors are not highlighted on the screen, drawing the attention of the recruiter.
Boring intros are boring
Dear Sir, My name is… and I’m writing to apply for the position of… which I saw advertised on…
Cut and paste introductions will tell recruiters immediately that you have used the same letter for the past 10 jobs you applied for. Tailor your introduction with something snazzy relating to the role. Link your intro to how you got to hear about the company and show that you know something about them.
- Aldi has created a storm in the Australian supermarket game, and I knew when I saw your ad that I was just the type of Marketing Specialist that can steer you through the ups and downs of the fickle Australian public.
- My love of education led me to be a teacher, my admiration of quality education has led me to apply for a job at your school.
- I have been a fan of your company forever, and I was so excited to see that my dream role had come up with your company.
It’s important not to repeat everything you have already mentioned on your resume if you keep repeating about your educational background, your name or where you worked; it’s likely to sound too repetitive and redundant.
Name drop with caution.
So you’ve been chatting with a friend and they tell you about a great role that has come up at their workplace. What could be better than working with your best mate? Not having to deal with the potential dramas it may cause. Although you love your friend and they might be great for hanging out with, you don’t know how they are viewed in their workplace. I’ve seen this go wrong a few times when someone has name dropped for a very new staff member or someone who is not respected in the workplace. If your friend is seen as a troublemaker who is trying to get their friends in to build alliances against the manager, you might be blacklisted before your application even gets read.
Unless your friend has a senior role in the company, or has been there forever and knows the culture and thinks you’d be a good fit, leave them out of your application. Don’t list a friend as a referee either, unless they were your direct supervisor when you worked together in a relevant role.
So go, be brave, and get that job. You deserve it.
Share your best cover letter intros in the comments below.