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The Magical Cover Letter

With the continual forward motion of technology, applying for jobs is becoming easier by the day. This easy approach can be a double-edged sword with merits on both sides, of speed vs quality. Upon reading about how robots will start to get jobs over humans my sarcastic side thinks, maybe because they will put together a better cover letter and CV than us fleshed types (I’ve seen Westworld and androids learn quickly).

Being a recruiter, I see hundreds of CV’s every week, all the different compositions, styles, formats and designs. Some CV’s are works of art while others require attention, but that is a different blog. Applications range wildly and can be down to different job-boards and social media platforms in relation to what they offer, but again that is a different discussion.

My topic of the day is the lesser spotted ultra rare, golden, shiny cover letter. It will not be long before David Attenborough narrates a mini-series about them as they must be on the endangered admin species list. In my last three recruitments of a combined 148 applications, there were 2 of these rare little treasures.

Although they are not always expertly crafted they are the first personal conversation between a candidate and employer/recruiter so are powerful. By the way, I don’t count generic cover letters such as:

 

Dear sir, madam,

I would like to apply for the job you have advertised, I feel I have the customer service, mechanical, massage and sales skills I need for the role that you are currently advertising for.

 

Unless it is a specific personal situation that is pertinent to every job you are likely to apply for.

 

Elevator Pitch (Lift Pitch in the UK)

I liken it to this; if you were going to the interview and entered the lift then realised the person in there was the person who was going to interview you, it would be a great chance to have a short conversation with them to break the ice and give them a positive perception of you. This interaction is just like a well-crafted cover letter (I will offer my thoughts on “well crafted” later).

If you got in the lift and said nothing, it is an opportunity missed, or if you talked about your ingrowing toenails, it’s like the generic cover letter, somewhat uninspiring.

The level of position you are going for, of course, affects the detail and time spent on a cover letter but my list which equates to “well crafted” is:

  1. Tailored for the position that you are applying for.
  2. A nice salutation from sir/madam to a simple hello.
  3. Specifically about you at this time in relation to this job.
  4. Spaced out and not too long, so it is easy to read.
  5. Punctuation and grammar to the best of your ability and resources available.
  6. Honest and sincere.

Now I could go into all the things you should think about putting in and where to put certain things and how to put them etc, but I’m not going to (I will put a link to some sites that offer this).

 

My very best tip is this:

Read the job description carefully then look at your CV.

If you think your experience, skills, location and qualifications fit well to the role, then highlight some key matching features in your cover letter and how enthusiastic you are for the position.

As we know life is not perfect, so if you look and think, there will be better-matched people, or it doesn’t look a match at all, or there are some areas of my CV that really need explaining then do just that. Explain areas that may not seem obvious, say why you think you match the role and why you would like it.

Not Necessarily Shakespear

If you have fantastic writing skills it should make the process easier for you however if you haven’t just try your best, spellcheck or someone to read through can be helpful.

The main thing is to read it back and see if it gets across what you are trying to say. I have received cover letters from people with dyslexia which had mistakes, but their desire and honesty came through. Some other letters had mistakes as English was not their first language, again sincerity and enthusiasm came through loud and clear.

If there is no way to add a cover letter (very rare), have it on the first page of your CV.

Here is a Guardian link with information about different formats and another for a university page with a wealth of cover letter information on it.

Let us all pull together and save this dying art form;

If we don’t; the robots will.

 

Paul Hunt – Recruit 500

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