Standing out: How to write a cover letter.

Getting ahead of the competition in the working world is incredibly difficult, you’ve got to show what you’re all about in the right way, without taking too long to do it. Going round, just handing CV’s in won’t get you anywhere, you need to show your potential employer you are more than a bunch of grades on a piece of paper. A simple way to do this is writing a cover letter for yourself and here we are going show you how to write a cover letter!

What’s a cover letter?
A cover letter is a simple letter written by yourself and addressed to any potential employer of yours explaining who you are, what you’re about and why you want this job. It should also add a sense of depth to yourself as to why you and your potential employer would benefit from you getting the job, think of yourself as a branded good and this cover letter is like your advertising statement.

This letter is chance to explain your previous work experience or any past life experiences that may be relevant to the position. A good example of this is that you may not have room on your CV to talk about how you help out in your local community. Writing a cover letter will let you explore this corridor of experience, allowing you to show how willing you are or how capable you can be.

When it comes to applying for a job you’re trying to persuade the employer that you are the best candidate for the job. So like any good debater you must construct a good argument for your cause. A classic tool for this is PPE or Point, Proof and Explanation.

Point – You make a point to a potential employer that you feel you are suited for the job they have advertised by entering your application.
Proof – You attempt to prove this by having sufficient employment history and/or good grades amongst a collection of other experiences on you CV. Now for a lucky select few this is sometimes enough, however more often than not this is only 50% of the a good application.
Explanation – This is where you really seal the deal. You write a cover letter explaining who you are, what you are looking to get out of the job, how the company would benefit from having you and giving your application a sense of purpose. This immediately attaches a persona to your application, giving the employers something to think about. Instead of regarding your CV as just another piece of scrap paper, the employers are now dealing with an identity, making you stand out from the crowd.

Writing a cover letter:

Writing a cover letter is like writing any letter, your layout should coincide with that of a standard letter e.g. your own address is placed at the start on the right side of the page and the address you are sending to on the left side of the page. When starting your letter you need to find someone to address it too, if not just start with ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, having a named recipient is always better though.

Your first paragraph should delve into who you are i.e name, recent past (e.g. graduate, studying or job) and some standout attributes. This is a decent start and some may think that it really isn’t important, but how you convey yourself in the opening 2 lines of your letter will determine if your potential employer reads on. If my cover letter was to start with ‘My name is Craig Cunningham, I am a 21 year old graduate who recently graduated from blah blah blah’ the employer will throw it in the bin without a second thought. The way past this thinking outside the box, something that is different. Let’s say the job is an advertising job, you could start by talking about the state of advertising in the world, or how it has affected the world we live in. If the job is a simple Human Relations position which has affected the world like advertising, you could talk about the relevance of the position within a corporation and how you feel it’s vital. It’s all about showing a level of unique identity that will make the reader remember who you are.

Now you have their attention, give them a reason to like you. The second paragraph is where you delve into your primary point of your application, the fact that you are perfect for this job. Declare your intentions and support this with good reasoning, this can be based on your personal traits like determination and a good work ethic, although this can be a bit generic. Showcase your past experiences, travelling, volunteering work, work experiences, this is your chance to show off so pick your most unique selling points. What have you got that no one else has? You know another language? You organised a major event in your community? Some of these may not be super relevant to what your applying for, but thats where you have to use your imagination, how can you sell these as if they are relevant. An example of this could be that you were first in your family to earn a university degree, although this may not seem like much it shows that you can go where others before you haven’t, showing a true character and leadership. Another example could be that as a member of your local football team you show a true willingness to pull together with others to achieve the best result, making you a true team player. Effectively you know what this job needs and like any debate or academic argument you have to convince the employer of this, sell the idea with your character.

These experiences and ideas give your character a richness that a CV alone cannot do. With this it is much harder for any employer to denounce an application out of hand and must give it some serious consideration, giving you a much better chance of becoming employed.

Some things to remember:

Now you have written your cover letter lets go over some things before you submit it, these are easy things that can help you get that edge.

  • Reread your letter again or get someone else to proof read it. As simple as this is it helps A LOT, no one is perfect and just going over your application again can be difference between getting the job and not all because of a misspelt word. 
  • Don’t be generic. As I have said earlier and I will say it again, be different, explore your unique wall flower persona and sell it. Employers don’t want the bog standard worker, they want the super high end team member who is a character!
  • Don’t play the numbers game! By this I mean don’t type a generic cover letter and go into every shop, office and organisation and hand it as many as you can carry. People see through this straight away and stop reading immediately. You have to tailor everything, make the employer feel like you have put everything into wanting to work for them.
  • Do some research into the company and talk about it in your application, even a little bit will show you are keen and enthusiastic. Should you get an interview this will give you something to talk about, even if you only want the job because it pays.
  • Make sure you’re concise. A cover letter that is longer than a page is too long. A CV that is longer than 2 pages is too long. People want information in a short but sweet manner, so do this.

This is not a full proof method of getting a job but it will certainly give you a much better chance of securing that paycheque then just a simple CV and a prayer. Go forth and get that job!