In my previous blog, I wrote about why tech recruiters can help guide you through the recruitment process when applying to a job. For this blog I wanted to focus on the first stage of the application process – sending your cover letter to a recruiter. This can be a recruiter like myself at a recruitment agency, or directly to an employer. Either way, it’s an important step to getting your foot in the door, and making it through to the next round of the recruitment process.
Many underestimate the value in a well-written cover letter. It can really make you stand out from the crowd, and even put to rest any concerns the recruiter may have about your experience. You can use the cover letter as an opportunity to explain any career breaks and put your best foot forward in explaining exactly how your experience relates to the job they are advertising. This can help personalise your application in the first instance, meaning you are much more likely to be invited to have a call about the role.
Tip 1: Relevance
Make sure that your cover letter is relevant to the employer. Try not to use the same cover letter for all roles you apply to. Remember, taking a scatter gun approach to your job hunt doesn’t often provide results, so it’s worth taking the time on this step of the process. As mentioned previously, I recommend using this opportunity to explain how your experience links into what the employer is looking for in the job description. Pick up on keywords they have used, and relate your experience back. Secondly, ensure you include some information about the specific industry the role is in. This might be previous experience within the same industry, giving you an awareness of trends, or it might be a genuine passion.
Tip 2: Include A Call To Action
This is important to include at the end of your cover letter. You don’t want this to be a wasted effort, so ensure you include a call to action for the recruiter to pick up on. This might be a suggestion of a phone call at a certain date and time, or a request for email confirmation that they have received your cover letter. Either way, you want to use your cover letter to open up further conversation between yourself and the recruitment conversation. When you’re working with recruitment agencies, this can be really important. We’re here to help candidates, and those who make the extra effort to stay in contacts, and show that they are genuinely interested in the job stand out.
Tip 3: Keep It Clear and Concise
You’re not trying to write war and peace at this stage – you just want to include enough to convince the recruitment consultant that you’re the right candidate to take through to the next stage of the recruitment process. Consequently, a cover letter shouldn’t be any longer than 1 page, and shouldn’t write about all of your experience and skills. As mentioned before, you just want to include what’s relevant – anything that is just extra information, take out! You do need to include a few standard items, like your contact details, addressing it to an individual, an introduction to yourself and highlights of relevant experience, but apart from that, recruiters don’t want to read your life story. It shouldn’t be a long-winded essay, but more a story. Look into storytelling – a powerful B2B tool to create an emotional connection between yourself and the audience, this will help structure your cover letter in an appropriate way to make it stand out.
Tip 4: Get The Basics Right
It’s something my colleague Oliver Davies has written about in a previous blog in relation to a CV (read here). It’s also important when you’re writing a cover letter. Proofreading is so important. No matter how well you fit a job position, if you don’t get the basics right, it’s unlikely the recruiter will take you forward to the next stag. Spelling and a grammar mistake are red flags to a recruiter, and in turn an employer. You wouldn’t except an employee to turn in formal work with spelling mistakes, so don’t in your cover letter. You can use the online tool Grammarly – a free grammar checker to do this for you, or just take a few days to ensure it’s right and ask a friend or family member to check it over for you.
Tip 5: Don’t Use Jargon
There are two types of jargon that I see a lot in cover letters – technical jargon and vague phrases like “team-player” and “self-motivated”. This just doesn’t make you stand out. Everyone says it! If you’re going to make a statement like this, back it up with proof. A short anecdote to elaborate on your point will help, but where possible try to avoid it all together. If technical jargon is essential to showcase your skills, try and keep it to a minimum. We want to understand your skills, but more importantly we want to know why you’re right for the job – and your technical skills will only be on part of this.
Tip 6: Prepare Before Writing
Linking back to Tip 1, you need to prepare before you put pen to paper. You need to know what you’re trying to get across, and have the relevant examples ready in your head to elaborate on the messages you’re trying to get across. There are a few key questions to ask yourself to help in this preparation:
- What does the employer need?
- What 5 qualities do I have that relate to the job?
- What skills do I have that match the job description?
- What examples of experience can I use to showcase my skills?
- What makes me want to work at this organisation?
I hope this helps you to firstly understand the importance of writing a short cover letter, and secondly that it doesn’t have to be a painful process. You just need to follow these tips, and then you will have a cover letter that stands out from the crowd. After all it’s recruiters you’re looking to impress in the first instance to move through the recruitment process, so use this blog as your starting point for landing your dream job. Once you’ve made it through this part of the recruitment process, check out NP Group’s advice on how to make a great impression in your interview – link.