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Seven Ways to Nail Your Cover Letter

It’s taken over an hour, but you’ve finally completed an online application for a job that seems perfect for you. Never mind the fact that all the information you’ve keyed in is already on the resume you’ve worked many hours to retool for this particular position. Now the jobsite is requesting that you upload a cover letter. Really? Is a cover letter truly necessary? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the answer is ‘Yes.’

Despite some claims that cover letters are rarely read and are just relics from the pre-digital age, the majority of HR and recruitment experts believe applications with strong cover letters are an important factor when it comes to impressing prospective employers.

A cover letter provides you with an opportunity to directly address your suitability for the role – how your skills and prior experience align to the available role, as well as the soft skills you possess that make you a good fit for the company culture. 

Just what makes for a “well-done” cover letter? Here are seven tips on how to write a cover letter that makes an impact:

1. Start strong
Take the time to craft an opening sentence that captures the attention of the reader, and provides information on your relevance to the available position from the outset. This will set you apart from other candidates from the outset. 

 “Too often, cover letters are sleep-inducing. Don’t start your cover letter like everyone else by stating something like, ‘attached you will find my résumé for your Project Manager job.’ Instead, lead with a quote from a performance review or recommendation that highlights some of your relevant skills or your work ethic,” says Hannah Morgan, a contributor to  U.S. News and World Report Careers.

2. Cover your bases
A cover letter should summarise why you are applying to position, including how your personality and skills will add value to the business, and how the role aligns to your career aspirations. Avoid generic phrases and overused terminology such as “hard-working professional” and “excellent communication skills”. Instead, think about what makes you different from other potential candidates applying to the role, and highlight how you will make a positive impact on the company. 

3. Get personal
Not only should your cover letter show the reader who you are and how you can contribute to the company, it should also show that you did your homework about the company and its thought leaders. Don’t address your cover letter with a generic greeting such as ‘to whom it may concern’.

If you’re lucky, the job posting will include the name of the person who will receive your application. If not, you may need to do some detective work. Do your best to find out the name and title of the person doing the hiring, and make your pitch directly to that person.

4. Note the particulars
Do your homework by visiting the company’s website and learning about the nature of its work. Take note of the organisation’s projects, clients, any awards won, or other company-related news. If appropriate, reference one or two of these facts in your cover letter, and link them to your skills and experience to explain why you would be a good fit in the company.

5. Be the cure
Research the organisation you are applying to, paying particular trends to any recent news or organisational problems they may be facing. Use your cover letter to show how you have “cured” similar ailments in previous positions.

6. Ask for help
Consult with your recruitment consultant for tips on writing an impactful cover letter. Aerotek recruitment consultants are specialists within industrial and technical recruitment, and may share some great examples from previous successful job seekers. They may be able to steer you in the right direction regarding to whom you should address your letter and what types of candidates and skillsets are most in demand at the company you are applying to.

7. Revise, edit, proof, repeat
What’s worse than not sending a cover letter at all? Sending one that’s poorly written. Never press send without reading your cover letter several times over, doing an electronic spell and grammar check, and making sure you’re sending the right letter to the right person at the right company. It also helps to have a friend review the letter for you. Keep in mind that the person reviewing your application is probably short on time, so make your points clearly and succinctly to win them over from the get-go.

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