We’ve long held the belief that the cover letter is one of the most important parts of your application. It’s the best way for you to grab the attention of the recruiter, introduce yourself, showcase what you offer, and highlight why you’d be a great hire. But with research showing you have just seconds to make an impression, you’ve got to get it right!
A cover letter provides the best way to introduce yourself to a recruiter. You need to convey who you are, what you have to offer, and why you want the job – but many experts believe you have just 20-30 seconds to do so. This is the time it takes an experienced recruiter to scan your application in enough detail to make a decision about whether or not to read further. In a crowded job market, recruiters notice ‘stand-out’ applications. This means it must be attention grabbing – easy to read with information that identifies you as an ideal candidate. Here are our tips to ensure your next cover letter stands out:
- Tailor the content – while many candidates believe they can take a standard approach with their cover letter, this is not usually the case. Take notice of what the company is looking for by studying the job ad and/or position description. Customise your content to suit the role, cross-matching your applicable skills, experiences and qualifications to ensure everything you mention is highly relevant to the role.
- Show passion for the job and/or the industry you’re applying for. Anything that demonstrates a love for what you do or for what the company stands for will grab the recruiter’s attention.
- Talk about your love for the company – companies want to hire people who already know and love their brand. Ideally you want to incorporate some unique piece of company information into your letter – this could be a piece of current industry or company news and your opinion on it (so long as it’s not controversial or negative of course). It’s also perfectly okay to flatter. You could tell a short story about what attracted you to the company. Have you been a fan of the brand since you were a child? Has the product improved some aspect of your life? Have you dreamed of working there since XYZ? Stories bring everything to life – but keep them short, sharp and succinct – no one wants to read an essay.
- Emulate the company’s ‘voice’ – take note of industry buzzwords and specific language in the job ad and use them throughout your letter. By mirroring the same language in your letter, you can demonstrate you understand the company’s environment, industry and culture.
- Highlight successes – but make sure they’re relevant – the reality of the job search process is that it’s competitive. For most roles applied for, you’ll be competing with many other applicants. Usually, several of these applicants will be just as capable and/or qualified as you. A great way to grab attention is to highlight successes that demonstrate why you’d be an asset in the role. Focus on short stories that convey what you’ve done which have strong relevance to the new role. I like to list out the job requirements or repeat the bullet points that appear under ‘What you’ll need to succeed’ in the job ad – then provide short statements about what you bring for each one. If your background is extensive, start culling – only include examples that you think will interest the recruiter – those that showcase your skills, experience and accomplishments that directly relate to the role you’re applying for.
- Inject personality – or add some humour. This is a great way to make a recruiter smile, and therefore give you a better chance that they’ll remember you. Showing you bring the right experience and skillset to the role, as well as some personality is important – but be careful about trying to be too funny, informal, sassy, or quirky.
- Make it visually appealing – your cover letter should match your resume, with the same header, font and style. Use a modern template with a classic font and no clutter – something that looks professional and clean. Always save your documents to PDF format so there are no formatting issues when the recruiter opens it.
- Quantify examples – if you can, use numbers, percentages or specific results to demonstrate successful outcomes. Try not to make generalised statements about what you can do or have done – back these up with concrete examples.
Remember, it takes many recruiters just 20-30 seconds to decide whether to read your application in more detail, so give them every reason to do so. Make your application stand out by showing you’ve done your research! Talk about the company, the role, your love of everything about the industry – and highlight why you’d be an asset. Taking the time to really understand the role and explaining exactly why you want it will impress most recruiters.