Writing a great covering letter
Published: 08 Nov 2016 By Harry Doherty
Congratulations, your cv ticked all the box’s for the position and they are now looking at your covering letter. They already know what skills and experience you have, now they want to know a bit more about you. They want to know what type of person you are, what you have been doing for the past five or ten years. And if you tell them nothing else, they want to know that you can write a document that reads well and has no spelling of grammatical errors.
Great, we have ticked the box that says “our blog tells readers not to make spelling mistakes in their covering letter”, now we can talk about the more important details. But really, do spell check, one trick is to read it backwards, you can notice spelling mistakes more easily that way. THERE, that’s it, we are done, never mentioning it again.
It’s one thing to be able to write a covering letter, but it can be another thing entirely to write one that delivers the message that readers what to know. The points we have listed below are all about identifying key areas to focus on and what doing these areas poorly or successfully can end up saying about you.
- Knowing what you’re writing before you write it:
This is as simple as bullet pointing your skills, abilities and experiences, and organising them in order of most important or most valuable when compared to those mentioned in the job description. Doing this before you begin writing and you can entice the reader to continue reading, avoid repeating yourself and overall improve the strength of your covering letter.
- Tell it like a story:
If they’re reading your covering letter then they already know what education and experience you have from your CV. The reason they are reading your covering letter is because they are interested in finding out more about you and the person you are. What makes you, you, is your past, so tell them your career story. Think about all the W’s, who, what, when, where and why. Give the reader some background to where your skills and abilities came from and what turns you have made that got you to where you are.
- Don’t use dramatic lines:
“Since I was a child” or “My lifelong dream has always been” are some of the worst lines you could use in a covering letter, and yet they keep popping up. From the employer prospective they mean nothing and they’re also not true. Whilst you could say that it can imply passion and dedication to an area, these qualities can be better delivered through anecdotes from your experience. If you think you might have used a dramatic line before then don’t worry, you are one of many people out there who have, but it’s time to take them out.
- Use space saving techniques, but don’t lose the message:
Most will say that the ideal covering letter will be a single page, some are now saying half a page is better. The basic message coming across is that you are getting less and less words to sell yourself to an employer. An employer who is now seeing more and more applicants. Using Microsoft word, you can begin by changing your specifications to font size: 11, line/ paragraph spacing to 11.0 and extending your borders. Don’t go right up to the edge with your borders though, closer than a couple of centimetres from the edge of the page and your covering letter could look messy and crowded.
Once you have applied all of these changes you are ready to send off your covering letter. If you are interested in finding out more about how you can improve other areas of your application, please check out our other blogs for resources, advice and expert knowledge.
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