Career Moves: How to Write a Cover Letter
Sarah Taylor, Recruitment and Sales Manager at OSL Consulting, has over 20 years’ experience in recruiting both contract and permanent roles within the engineering sector. Actively involved in the engineering community, Sarah has hosted workshops and supported many engineers seeking employment. This is the third in her series of articles where she offers her expertise and guidance on all things job related, from CV essentials to interview tips and tricks.
WE'VE covered the basics and by now you should be well on your way to getting those applications sent, but before you do, have you included a cover letter? Time and time again, I’ve received job applications with no cover letter. In my opinion, behind every CV, there should be a compelling cover page. It should be well presented, concise and to-the-point.
This is your chance to speak directly to the employer, so don’t waste the opportunity. Make it unique and ensure it stands out. Going the extra mile does not go unnoticed, a well-written cover letter is a critical component in any job application. In my experience, it can be the difference between being at the top or at the bottom of the pile. So, where to start.
Do your research
Before you even put pen to paper, you need to do some research. Customising your cover letter is a great way to show your enthusiasm for the role and the company; show them that you’ve taken the time to understand their needs and the job role.
Whilst you’re researching the company, think about and take note of its corporate tone and how it portrays its character and brand as an employer. Check out its website; more likely than not, it will be a trove of information to inform a cover letter that resonates with the company. If you mirror the language and culture of the company, employers will begin to see you as a prospective fit.
It may seem obvious, but the letter should be in a traditional format with your address and details at the top right-hand side of the page. On the left-hand side below, include the contact details of the addressee (if known). If known, address the reader, if not a simple “Dear Sir or Madam” will suffice. You’d be surprised at how many people get this wrong, so think about the format and ensure it’s on point. Again, attention to detail does not go unnoticed.
Your opening lines should be short and succinct and should explain why you’re getting in touch. If someone referred you for the job, mention their name in this section. Remember the style and tone of your ‘opening’ can determine whether the employer reads on.
The main body
This is where you sell. Pick out key points of experience and knowledge and relate them back to the job role. Be creative and tell a story, try to captivate the reader and help them understand what you can do for the company. Be genuine, keeping it relevant and succinct.
When reading cover letters, you can tell which ones have been sent out over and over again, so a tailored message really makes the difference. If you go the extra mile it will pay off. It can be difficult, but try not to simply repeat your CV. Tailoring the cover letter really helps prevent this as you’re focussing more on the role than your own specific skill set.
At the end of the letter don’t forget to reiterate to the reader why you are suitable for the role and why you’d make a great candidate. Tell them you look forward to hearing from them or that you’d love to discuss the role in person, add a bit of personality and stand out from the crowd.
Engineers are renowned for their problem-solving skills, so when it comes to the cover letter, be pragmatic, ensure it's focussed and does the job, get someone to proof-read it, and make sure there are no mistakes.
So, there you have it, Cover Letters 101. Now you’ve nailed that application, I’m sure you’ll be needing some interview tips to help you build on that positive impression. Keep your eye out for my next piece where I’ll discuss everything from preparation to presentation. Thinking ahead and solid planning will bring you a step closer to securing your next rewarding role.