I receive a LOT of questions about writing cover letters. Let’s clear up the main one- “Do I need a cover letter?” The answer is yes; if asked to submit a cover letter with your application, you should provide one.
While it’s also true that some hirers don’t read them or require a cover letter as a part of the application process, I see it a bit like being back at school – you’re better off doing a little more than a little less.
The most compelling reason to include a cover letter is to cement your interest in the role and eliminate any red flags about your application. The cover letter can act as a conduit between your resume and application.
Spare a moment to put yourself in the shoes of the hirer, and consider the first impression they may get when receiving a resume without a cover letter.
As an ex recruiter, I can recall some of the disconnects that would run through my mind, such as; ‘why is this person applying for a more junior/interstate/different sector role?’, and ‘the resume says their last position was in London, I’m hiring in Melbourne, what is this candidate’s current residential status?’. So, this is your chance to eliminate any doubts or confusion for the person hiring.
A well-written cover letter provides the applicant with the chance to detail their suitability and clarify circumstances so that hirer can have their “ah-ha” moment and read on. Here are some tips to make yours stand out from the crowd-
- Personalise your greeting. Wherever possible, avoid the Dear Sir/Madam or ‘To Whom It May Concern’. Wherever possible, you are looking to create a connection with the hirer. Has the advertisement included their name? Can it be found through a LinkedIn search? Or, consider using a Google search to find the HR Manager’s name. If in doubt, a friendly ‘Dear Hiring Team’ would be appropriate.
- Keep it to one page. Unless otherwise specified by the ad, this is important, or it is a Government application requiring KSC responses. It is not necessary to use the first three paragraphs explaining your past. Keep it concise, relevant to the role, and FUTURE focused.
- Address the job criteria. It is important to note; these are the pain points experienced by the hirer. Almost all job ads have a ‘required’ area, usually towards the end of the ad. Address these directly by responding with bullet points in the cover letter, spelling out why you’re the right fit for the job to the hirer.
- Be sure to mention the additional requests in the ad. These may be about travel, licences or holding a particular card, such as a Working with Children’s check. Acknowledge these requests in your cover letter by including a short statement at the end of your letter. Doing this will show your attention to detail and suitability and that you have read the job description carefully!
- Be mindful of the type of language and keywords used in the advertisement and utilise these in the cover letter. Sign off with a warm, positive note, and you should be well on your way to making a strong impression.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me to discuss your next application.