Whether you’re applying for a placement or your dream job, you need to stand out from the crowd. That’s where your cover letter comes in. Recent employer feedback told us:
“The main issue was the absence of relevant cover letter that would have showed that the applicant had considered the projects offered and made an effort explaining why they should be considered for the position(s).”
More and more employers are looking to your Cover Letter when making the decision on who to short list for interview.
You should use every opportunity you can for self promotion and in many instances if you have a poor cover letter employers will not even look at your CV.
"A good cover letter can be the difference between getting a placement and not..."
A cover letter is the perfect accompaniment to your CV and if done right can be the difference between success and failure. It’s the first thing an employer will see and the perfect opportunity to sell yourself. In fact, more and more employers are basing their decision to short list for interview on cover letters.
By approaching the cover letter in a structured manner, you can be clear and concise about why you’re best suited for the job. Remember that presentation can reflect strongly or poorly on you.
The covering letter, like the CV, informs your prospective employer's first impressions of you.
So where do you start?
Step 1: Start your letter with an address
More specifically, your address (and contact details) in the top right-hand corner. After that, start the letter with the employer's name and address. Try to find out exactly who will be dealing with applications so you can address them directly for a more personal touch. You can find this out either on their website, or by simply calling them to ask. It gives the letter a much more personal touch if it's addressed to a real person rather than a generic sir/madam.
It's often difficult to know how to open a cover letter. Keep it simple, start by telling them exactly what you want. Make sure it's clear what position you're applying for.
"I am writing to you regarding the 'web designer' placement that was recently advertised on www.e-placementscotland.com, and would be most grateful if you would consider my application for this position"
Step 2: Explain why you would like the job
Once you've broken the ice, it's time to make it clear what exactly it is about the job that attracted you, explain in detail why do you want the job?
Again, the key is to deal in specifics. Although your main motivation may be "for the money" or some such, it's better to try and pick one aspect of the job that particularly appeals to you and explain why.
"As I am looking to pursue a career in web design, I have reviewed your company online and feel that they have the ethos that I am looking for and would offer the right environment for me to further my career"
Step 3: Highlight what skills you have to offer
Now that your reader knows the job is right for you, it's time to move on and show that you are right for the job.
It’s time to highlight your strengths and qualifications that are directly relevant to the position. If there are specific requirements that are mentioned in the job description, use these terms when describing yourself.
You may have touched upon some of this in your CV, but here you have room to elaborate fully. Try not to repeat too much of your CV though. After all, this is supposed to be read in conjunction with your CV, and a lot of crossover will come across as sloppy.
"I feel that I am good for this position as I have .net experience as outlined in the job advert."
You can use your examples to bring in additional skills that may not be directly relevant. Working in things such as Technical skills, or your organisational skills is a good idea.
Try to offer the reader something unique and beneficial. Use interesting examples that cast you in a separate light to others applying for the position.
Step 4: Finish your letter in a positive way
Finish off by stating clearly when you are available for interview. If there is no set starting date, it is a good idea to make a note of the earliest you can begin working.
You should also welcome the prospective employer to contact you if they need any further information. They should have your contact details from the top of the letter, and on your CV. Sign off and, if you are printing the letter out rather than emailing it, sign it for an added level of professionalism.
Remember your aim is to make the employer remember you, so be sure to think about what you want to stay.
When applying to a placement with e-Placement Scotland, increase your chances of interview success by copying and pasting your tailored cover letter into the box when uploading your CV.
Still not sure where to start? Have a look at our example cover letter as a good place to get going and remember to speak with your careers service too.