Pay attention to your greeting
The one way of getting your covering letter going straight into recycling is to address it to ‘To Whom it May Concern’. Employers want to know that they are your employer of choice and if this is true, then you will have invested time in researching the company – this includes finding out who the key decision and hiring managers are. You need to find out:
- The department head for the role you’re applying for (hint: LinkedIn is great for all of this!)
- The HR manager
- The Senior Management team
You want a real person’s name at the salutation as this demonstrates you’ve done your homework. There’s nothing to stop you from even contacting the company and asking who the main hiring manager is for this position.
Don’t use weak words in the opening
Most people start with ‘I’m writing to express my interest in …………… – don’t!! This is what everyone does and you want your application to stand out.
It’s better to start with words that grab their attention, something like:
‘Having followed your updates on LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter, I was intrigued to learn you plan on opening up in West Africa. I lived there for one year during my gap year and have a strong understanding of culture and politics in that part of the country.
It’s not a copy and paste of your CV
Having invested a lot of time and effort into fully targeting your CV, you want to do something similar for the covering letter. Each one has to be unique for every job you apply for, just like your CV.
This is your second opportunity to showcase you and is the ideal opportunity to bring your personality and softer transferable skills to the table. Just as I’ve described in the opening of the covering letter, how can you add value to this role and company? What else did you learn during your research that really grabbed your interest? Why was that? Tell them and tell them how you can improve what they do because you’ve improved the product or services similarly in previous roles.
Highlight your relevant key skills for this role
You want to quickly show how much of a ‘fit’ you are for this position and the covering letter presents the opportunity to do that more than the CV does. Why? – because you’re telling a bit of a story, albeit a brief story – it’s not your autobiography and the story must be relevant to the role.
Keeping with the theme of West Africa, and showing you’ve done your research, you could say”
- Whilst working as a graduate Project Manager, I recruited a team of local West African natives, trained and mentored the team and within 2 months we’d exceeded the targets of other countries who’d been in business for several years.
- During my last 2 years at University, I was Head of the Student Union and demonstrated honesty, integrity, compassion, understanding of ethnic minorities and their cultures as well as financial planning, budgets, and targets.
Versions X, Y and Z of your covering letter
It’s always valuable to have one master covering letter but you must never send that same one to more than one employer, or job. Just like your CV, each time you must create a new covering letter that contains all of the above advice. Each time you research, and you’re making notes, stick a C (CV) or an L (covering letter) next to the note and this will help you decide which document to expand your relevant experience within.