Applying for a job is a stomach churning experience; from the initial short listing to the final moments, massaging a few subtle details and tweaking a word or two, before sending it off into the stratosphere of good luck.
It is said the resume is the most important piece of information a potential employee can ever submit; while this is true, a brief but comprehensive profile is your best chance of communicating how you’re the best person for the job, you also need to concentrate on the why.
The humble cover letter doesn’t get a lot of airtime, often templated and predictable, attached as an after-thought and riddled with mistakes. So what makes the perfect cover letter?
Think of the next three hundred words out of your fingers as a sales pitch, a textual presentation to separate you from the hundreds to thousands of others who chase the same opportunities. Stand out by following these tips:
Generic cover letters are boring, uninspired and an applicant’s worst enemy. Why? Imagine you’re the boss – if you receive a few hundred cover letters that read the same, look the same and use a basic formula of twelve point formatting, multi-syllable adjectives and bumbling self-promotion, why would you bother reading all the way to the parting salutation? Research the company, tap into their culture and integrate their corporate brand into the criteria. Check their core values, how do you identify with these calls to action and how would do you see yourself connecting with them in future?
After you’ve connected with the undercurrent of culture and found a few ways to mirror their strategy, this is your shot to make a case. Selling yourself is a bit puzzling, where do you start, what do you say, should you summarise your CV? This may be your only shot to show an edge of personality, so replicating an achievement and experience list verbatim probably won’t do you any favours. Instead, slice to the heart of the matter and let them know upfront why you’re the best person for the job, what you’ll bring to the team and why your unique background matches their candidate criteria. Need an example? If I dreamed of making it big in the mines, I would research Company X, and other mining recruitment agencies, like onekeyresources.com.au, noting any common jargon and umbrella expectations, tailoring my cover letter to their company aesthetic.
Finding the right balance between exposition and brevity is difficult, especially when we want the best of ourselves to stand out among a pack of enterprising hopefuls. Think of a cover letter as an essay and stick to four paragraphs:
1st Paragraph: Introduce yourself, note the position you’re applying for and summarise why you absolutely need to join their company. This is the perfect opportunity to construct an instant wow factor.
2nd Paragraph: Introduce your primary skillset and how it relates to the advertised position, demonstrating a key event or occasion where you embraced a relevant challenge and generated a positive outcome. Don’t focus on the negatives – this isn’t the time to critically self-analyse.
3rd Paragraph: Connect the anecdotal evidence with relevant training, education and further past employment. If you’re moving on or changing careers, this is the perfect moment to briefly explore why and elaborate on why Company X can help you achieve your new goals.
The Final Word: Wrap up by expressing your excitement and gratitude, thanking readers for their valuable time. Take the pressure of them by noting you’ll be in touch on a certain date to follow up your application and offer best contact details for any questions that may arise. Keep your follow up promise.
Remember to run over the text with a critical eye before sending it off into the internet ether. A second pair of eyes and a few drafts will eliminate any grammar mistakes, spelling errors, incorrect titles or missing words. Keep your syntactical devices consistent and be aware of personal diction. Good luck!
Written by Jessica Hannah