Your covering letter is the best opportunity you will get to outline exactly why you should get the job and encourage a recruiter or employer to take your application seriously.
This is your chance to tell them a bit about yourself, what separates you from the crowd and why you have chosen to apply for this particular job. Together with your CV, this letter could be the reason you get the job.
Get Straight to the Point
Like your CV, there’s no room for dithering about. You need to jump straight in and get to the purpose of your letter in your first paragraph. There’s no ‘right’ way to open a letter but giving a brief background explaining your current job role and then moving on to explain your ambitions is a good place to start as it situates you within your career timeline. You should also make the employer aware that the reason for this letter is to be considered for the role. Linking the role to achieving your goals is a good way to show your interest.
Though your covering letter is written in sentences – and definitely not bullet points! – you should try to keep each sentence short. Use each one to make one point and then move on. Long compound sentences are difficult to read in a rush and no employer wants to have to read back over something because they didn’t understand the first time.
Keep it Brief
It’s tempting to write a long letter thinking that this will show how perfect you are for this role but you should limit yourself to a single side of A4 – all your most relevant experience will fit in this space! Before you start writing, create a list of the things you want to include and arrange this list into paragraphs to help you focus on exactly what you need to say and in what order.
When we are talking, often people use long phrases to prepare the ground for what they are about to say. In writing, and especially in a covering letter, this kind of phrasing is a waste of space and suggests that you have nothing better to say. A few examples might be: ‘I am’ instead of ‘I consider myself to be’, ‘at work I’ instead of ‘when I am at work, I’. If the sentence works without a few words, be ruthless and edit them out.
By writing concisely and specifically, you will be able to fit more relevant information into your letter and impress your reader with your ability to cram so much into a small space. If you find editing and trimming your writing difficult, give your letter to a friend and ask them to cross out words and phrases you don’t need in order for the sentence to make sense.
Match the Job Specification
When you apply to any job, you need to be sure that you are fulfilling all the criteria required and then tell the employer that you do. So, if a specification is that you have experience of running Facebook campaigns, include this information in your covering letter, preferably with a few more details such as the variety of campaign sizes and the different industries you have worked with.
Matching the job specification point by point makes it easy for the person reading your letter to check off each of the criteria as they read. You can make it even easier for them by using similar phrasing to signpost when you are addressing a particular point. Try to cover every point on the spec – even if you don’t match that particular point – to indicate your desire to learn that skill or give alternatives. For example, if you don’t have the required number of years’ experience you may say, ‘though I have not been in the industry for X years, my varied work and eagerness to learn have allowed me to progress quickly in my career.’
Be Active not Passive
Passive language removes agency from the subject of the sentence, making actions to appear to have just happened. An example of this might be: ‘the project was fulfilled by the team and I to great effect’. Active language is more direct and presents the cause of the change first. An example might be: The team and I fulfilled the project to great effect.’
Active language is better for a few reasons. Firstly, it is much easier to read quickly as it is straightforward: this happened because of this. Secondly, active language puts you at the front of the sentence rather than as an afterthought so each action is immediately associated with you. Finally, active language shows that you have confidence in your actions and are fully responsible for your achievements.
Get the Interview
Everyone has their own way of closing a covering letter but however you phrase it, you need to indicate that you want to come in for an interview. The whole purpose of the covering letter and CV is to persuade an employer to invite you in to talk so if your letter tails off or comes to an abrupt end, it can be jarring to read.
Planting the interview seed after giving all the reasons you are a good fit for the role is a good way to finish. Something along the lines of ‘I look forward to hearing from you in the future’ is a good way to encourage further communication: it tells the employer that you are keen to meet them and continue through the hiring process
An effective covering letter can be the best way to introduce yourself and show how suited you are to a particular job role. If you manage your writing well, you can address all aspects of a job specification and demonstrate your understanding of the job and how you will fit in. With concise, well-edited writing, a side of A4 is plenty of room to sell your skills.