A Guide to Cover Letter Writing

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1 A Guide to Cover Letter Writing Contents What is a Cover Letter?... 2 Before you get started - Do your Research... 3 Formatting the letter... 4 Cover letter content... 5 Section 1 - Opening... 5 Section 2 - Why you are the ideal candidate for the role?... 6 Section 3 - Why you want the job... 7 Section 4 - Personal circumstance... 8 Section 5 - The close... 9 Tips and hints... 10

2 What is a Cover Letter? A cover letter is a document provided alongside a CV that provides the personal element to your application. While a CV is factual account of your abilities, a cover letter is where you have the opportunity to show real passion for the role you are applying for. Cover letters are often neglected by job seekers, however they can be the difference between rejection and interview. They demonstrate that you have taken time to think about the job you re applying for rather than sending a standard CV. Differences Between CV's and Cover letters CV's are skills focused Cover letters are job focused A CV will often span a wide range of skills and experiences. Cover letters however should focus on why you want the job and why you feel you are the most suitable candidate for the role. CV's should match the industry Cover letters should match the job While a CV may not be hugely altered from job application to application, providing the roles are similar, a cover letter is often developed and used for one specific role at one organisation. This is because a high standard cover letter should be personally tailored to what that organisation needs. CV's provide the what Cover letters provide the why CV's should tell an employer what skills and experience you have to offer. A cover letter should focus on why you want to work for the specific organisation. CV's provide depth Cover letters are brief A cover letter should introduce your CV. It should not simply replicate what is in your CV but provide an account of why you are applying for the role and convince an employer that your CV is worth reading.

3 Before you get started - Do your Research It's important to identify the key criteria that the organisation is looking for in a candidate so you can effectively tailor your cover letter to meet their requirements. This will also make the actually writing of the cover letter a lot easier as you will see later on in this guide. There are 3 main places you can obtain information about the job. The job specification - A good job specification will include a comprehensive list of the duties expected of you within the role and the personal characteristics the employer is looking for. The company's website - Many companies now have a website page highlighting their mission statement and their broader corporate values. This is often found in their About Us or the Careers Section and can be a great way of identifying what kind of people the company is looking for. Speak to the employer directly - Speaking with a member of the organisations HR team or Recruitment Agent and asking what kind of candidate they feel would be suitable for the job can be highly valuable. Most companies will happily discuss what they are looking for and what experience a successful candidate would have and gives you insider knowledge. What if I have done this but have not found out anything? If you have exhausted this list and still have not found any information because; the company is confidential or the job specification is vague then there are still things you can do. Have a look at job specifications for other similar roles. While the duties for the role as an admin assistant in one company may differ slightly for another company, it can still give you a good idea of what the duties will be and the kind of person that will be best suited to this role. Alternatively the two following websites provide a comprehensive review of the roles and duties of most jobs and also provide a list of the key characterises that are likely to be beneficial to have if considering working in this role. nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk planitplus.net

4 Setting out your covering letter Formatting the letter Remember that this is a letter and therefore should be formatted in an appropriate letter format. See below for an example or alternatively download one of our example cover letters with professional letter headings for you to use. Your name Your address Your contact details Date Employers name Employers address Job reference code Dear Sir or Madam Who to address the letter to "To whom it may concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam" are typical way of addressing a cover letter but should be avoided if possible. It's the equivalent of receiving a letter that states "Dear homeowner" and we all know how excited we feel when we receive these letters. If you're lucky the job specification or advert may give you the name of the recruitment manager in charge of hiring for this position. If not there's no harm in contacting the employer and requesting the name of the decision maker/manager the letter should be addressed to. This will show that you re proactive and have thought about making a good impression and will likely pay off. Below is our order of the best ways of addressing the letter; 1. Using Employer's First and Second Name 2. Dear Hiring Manager 3. To whom it may concern 4. Dear Sir/Madam 5. Dear Human Resources Director

5 Cover letter content A cover letter can be separated into 5 main sections; 1. An opening statement regarding the role your applying for 2. Why you are the ideal candidate for the role 3. Why you are applying for the position 4. Your personal circumstances 5. A closing statement Section 1 - Opening The opening statement should outline the job you are applying for, the company it's with, where you saw it advertised and a job reference code (in brackets, if known). Make it professional and to the point as this will set the tone for the rest of the application. An example can be seen below. I am applying for the position of JOB TITLE at COMPANY NAME as advertised on WHERE JOB WAS ADVERTISED (JOB REFERENCE CODE). Remember to include as much detail about the job including job reference code as an employer may be recruiting for multiple roles or a recruitment agency recruiting for similar roles, and therefore may not know exactly which role you are applying for without the above information.

6 Section 2 - Why you are the ideal candidate for the role? Where most people go wrong on a cover letter is on this section. This section is not for you to repeat everything you have written in your CV. Instead this section should draw an employer's interest towards your CV. Firstly highlight the key skills the employer is looking for. These are likely to be the first skills listed on the job description or will be repeated several times within the job spec. These are likely to be fairly obvious e.g. a sales job will be highly reliant on sales skills. Once you have highlighted the key skill/skills you can link your cover letter to your CV. See the examples below. From reading the job specification it is clear that the ideal candidate for the role will have significant experience in a sales background. As can be seen from my CV I have 10 years experience within sales. During this time I have been successful in creating and developing key business accounts and have achieved sales targets of 117% against target. I understand from the job specification that the ideal candidate for the role will be particularly customer focused. As can be seen from my CV I have substantial knowledge in developing relationships with customers quickly, building rapport and obtaining knowledge to effectively promote the correct products to the right customers. It is clear from the job specification that a successful candidate for this role will have a degree in accountancy. As can be seen from my CV I gained a 2:1 in BSc accountancy in 2014 and am now interested in putting the skills and knowledge I have gained into practise within your graduate scheme. These paragraphs do not provide a lot of detail but they do draw the employer towards looking at the CV and demonstrate that you meet the main criteria they are looking for. However please ensure that your CV does have the relevant skill detailed within it. Your application will look inconsistent if you mention on your cover letter that you have a particular skill and this skill is not detailed within your CV.

7 Section 3 - Why you want the job This section is where it will pay to have done your research. Think about why this job is so appealing to you and why this company over any others? What is this job going to provide you with? What can you achieve in this position? Now it may be that you re applying for a lot of different jobs at lots of different companies but that's not the impression you want to give a potential employer. You want them to think that this is the ideal role for you, in your dream company. This is where your background research pays off. You want to look for any key phrases on their website which describe the goals or values they work by and pick ones you can identify to. Here are some fictitious company values We always respect our staff and customers We value creative and innovative individuals and are always looking for new ideas We support the development of staff to reach their highest potential If you were to apply for this role then you may write a section something like the example below. I am applying for a role within your company because, from my research, I understand that your company takes pride in ensuring respect for employees and customers. I am excited about the opportunity to work for a company that respects its staff, enabling them to provide the best level of service to the customer. I always look for new and innovative ways of working to improve both the speed and quality of work and therefore feel I will fit well within your organisation. Lastly I am looking for a role which will provide me with new skills and enhance my existing leadership skills and can see from your website that you help enable employees to develop and reach their full potential. This paragraph achieves 4 important things 1. Answers the question, why do you want to work for this company? 2. Demonstrates that you have done your research and spent time learning about the company. 3. Gives a suggestion of what you're like a person; customer focused, creative, keen to undertake training and looking for a long term job opportunity. 4. Demonstrates that you already identify with the companies value. You are the right person to work for their organisation and not someone who is likely to struggle to adopt the organisations missions and values.

8 Section 4 - Personal circumstance This is an optional paragraph for you to outline your personal circumstance. While this is optional when used correctly this paragraph can make a real influence on your application. Consider why an employer may not interview you. Is there something that is not explained on your CV? Have you had a break in your employment? Why did you leave your last employment? Are you making a career change? Consider someone who was made redundant from their last job and has been unemployed for 3 months. An employer may see the gap on their CV, make an assumption that they were sacked from their last job and therefore choose not to interview them for this reason. However through explaining the circumstance an employer will understand that redundancies happen and therefore that person did not have any control over losing their job. Another example could be someone who has had a career break to care for children or a family member. Rather than leave this gap and leave an employer wondering why they have been unemployed for this time they will be aware of the situation and therefore increases likelihood of gaining an interview. Remember to use the Good News Sandwich; start with something positive, outline the personal circumstance and then finish with something positive. See below for some examples; As can be seen from my CV I am a very loyal employee with a strong work history. However in 2010 I was required to leave work to care for my mother until 2014 in which these circumstances have now changed. I am keen to return to work within the sector I have had prior success in and feel that this experience has given me a new outlook and will, in the long run, make me more determined to succeed. As can be seen from my employment history I was employed with INSERT ORGANISATION for 10 years. However in 2010 my company went through some difficulties and as a result, myself and a significant number of other employees were made redundant. Due to decline in this industry I found it difficult to find subsequent employment in this industry. However in this time I completed a training course in INSERT TRAINING TOPIC in order to expand my skill set. I have found that my previous work experience has been highly transferrable and complemented what I have learnt in this training. As a result I feel confident in my abilities and knowledge to complete the duties outlined within the job specification. During time in education I was highly focused, engaged myself fully in my studies and left education with a good grades. However since leaving education I found it difficult to gain employment due to a lack of work experience. In order to overcome this barrier I began volunteering with INSERT ORGANISATION HERE to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed within this industry. I now feel that this experience has taught me valuable knowledge and experience which I can use within this role.

9 Section 5 - The close Finish how you began in section 1; nice, short and professional. Close the letter thanking them for considering your application and hint for an opportunity to discuss your application further. We suggested offering them the opportunity to contact you to discuss your application via telephone in order to increase your number of phone interviews. For example; "I hope you have found my application of interest and thank you for your consideration. I hope we can discuss this further within an interview and I am available to meet at your convenience. If you would like to discuss anything further required my application please contact me on ". Sincerely INSERT NAME

10 Tips and hints Keep it short - Between half a page and a one page max is sufficient. That said anything less than half a page will not have the sufficient depth in order demonstrate that you're the right person for the role. Keep it focused - Don't just state why you're amazing; target it to the role being applied for. While you may sound fantastic with great experience and abilities, this will mean very little to a potential employer if the skills you are listing are totally unrelated to the roles you are applying for. Avoid repetition - Similarly to the above point, don't just repeat the content of your CV. Your cover letter complement your CV not just repeat what has already been included. Upload a electronic version of your signature - Upload and attach your signature to the bottom of your cover letter. This will make it look more professional and show that you have put time and effort into applying for the role. Proof read before sending - Check your spelling and grammar. Easy mistakes suggest a lack of care, eye for detail and literacy skills. These are all skills that you want to demonstrate to employers, which can all be lost because of a failure to spend five minutes reading through and checking. Don't use the same cover letter for every application - While it is perfectly acceptable to use a template cover letter they must be made specific to each individual employer. If an employer can clearly see you have put the effort in to apply for the role you are more likely to be invited to an interview as those that put a great deal of effort into gaining employment are likely put the same effort into keeping their job. This is not a CV - Don't just highlight all your experience and qualifications this should be saved for your CV. This is an opportunity for you to highlight the key reasons why you re right for the role not a list of what you have done. If you expand on some experience or skill in Cover letter make sure it's in your CV - Your cover letter can expand on things stated in your CV but don't expand on things that are completely neglected in your CV. If you say that you have developed excellent communication skills include communication as a key skill in your CV. Don't talk about jobs that are not included in your work history or training that is not included in your education. This will make you appear forgetful and make your application confusing and inconsistent.

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