If you have a cover letter that starts with “Please find attached my application for Store Manager advertised on SEEK on the 14th June” – then it is time to radically rethink your entire approach to writing a cover letter.
A cover letter is the ultimate sales letter and the key to an effective sales letter is to persuade and communicate your worth. To do this, you need to effectively elicit a reaction from your reader that you’re exactly the applicant that they are looking for. To create the ultimate cover letter for both the private and public sector:
1. Be employer-orientated, not writer-orientated.
Many cover letters talk endlessly about how great the candidate is, without focussing on the exact needs of the employer. Look – it is no use harping on about your fantastic sporting achievements and ability to supervise staff if this has nothing to do with the job in question. When writing the letter focus on the employer’s needs. For example: – What problem does the employer need solved? What is relevant to this particular employer’s concerns? Does the cover letter put the employer’s needs above your needs? – That it doesn’t incorporate your career goals.
2. Focus on achievements, not duties and responsibilities.
The fact you have lots of experience within a particular sector, or role is great, but don’t focus on the daily responsibilities of your roles, instead highlight achievements within these roles. For example, it is wonderful that you have high level skills in MS Word, but what the employer is actually looking for is someone that can exploit technology to streamline operations / administration. SO evidence of an achievement relating to the development of template documents is more likely what the employer is REALLY looking for.
3. Get rid of the jargon.
Avoid industry jargon and buzzwords — stick to the facts and the benefits that you provide. An easy way to weed out jargon is to get someone that is not in your sector to read it. Do they get it? Is it obvious to your audience that DIAC is the Department of Immigration? If not, clarify and simplify. (This rule of course varies depending on who your target audience is. For example, if applying for a role in the same sector, buzzwords can be crucial. Just make sure the benefits that you are trying to convey don’t get overshadowed by jargon and industry clichés).
4. Keep it brief and digestible.
No one has time to weed through lengthy cover letters – period! The faster you convey your benefit to the reader, the more likely you’ll keep them reading. Start with an introduction that is interesting and relevant, followed by content that shows your understanding of the employer’s needs and confirmation of your ability to fulfil those needs. Unless you need to answer selection criteria within a cover letter, keep your cover letter to no more than 1 page!
5. Close with a confident finish!
Don’t be shy – tell the employer that you would like an interview, or that you look forward to meeting up with them to discuss the role further. Gone are the days in which you told the reader that if they’re interested, or have time to call, then it would be nice if they could contact you – please (which 9 times out of 10 sounds almost desperate). Instead be confident (not cocky) in your closing paragraph.
6. Have your cover letter proofread!
Good. Now have it proofread again. Don’t risk printing any typos, misspellings, or grammatical mistakes that will represent you as an amateur. You only get one chance to make a great impression!
- A perfunctory and let’s face it, BORING opening, replaced by an introduction that is interesting and relevant.
- A summary of experience and career goals, replaced with content that shows a complete understanding of the employer’s needs and corroboration of your ability to fill those needs.
- A wishy washy finish, replaced by a confident conclusion that invites the employer to take further action.
Now you have the ultimate cover letter that sizzles!