We often talk about the importance of first impressions at interviews. If we don’t get it right it has an impact on the rest of the interview. But often we think about first impressions when we actually meet the interviewer for the first time. There is another time when first impressions matter and that’s in your covering letter.
What Not To Do
Over my 20 years of interviewing I’ve received many different types of covering letters. Some have been really good but many fail. I’ve had:
- No covering letters
- One sentence long covering letters
- Covering letters referring to a job that I wasn’t recruiting for
- Covering letters written on a torn piece of paper from a notebook
Bizarre as they may sound, it is really amazing what you receive from potential candidates.
The Purpose of a Covering Letter
The goal of a covering letter is to help you secure an interview. It is nothing more than that. It won’t get you the job, but it will stop you getting an interview.
How do you create the right impression with your covering letter to stand out over above other applicants? Here are 6 steps to help you craft your best one yet.
First things first, don’t starting writing your covering letter. Instead the first step is research and preparation. Make a list of:
- Key characteristics of the role you’re applying for
- Learning more about the organization – its culture, what they do and their people (the website is a good starting point)
Match the key characteristics of the role to you, by detailing where you have relevant and/or appropriate experience. Remember to include what you did and what you achieved that could help you stand out for this role.
Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer and think about the benefit you bring to him/her and to their organization. This is about you solving a problem for them.
Your Opening Lines
Address your letter to a specific person (if you can) and make reference to the role you’re applying for.
The Stand Out Section
Take what you wrote in point 2 and craft it into a concise section in your letter. It’s likely to be two or three paragraphs. This is your chance to tell them why they should see you for an interview. Tell them, ‘I am applying for this role because I have..’
- Benefit 1 of hiring you
- Benefit 2 of hiring you
- Benefit 3 of hiring you
Make sure you sign the letter appropriately. If you know the name of the person it’s ‘Yours sincerely’. If you don’t it’s ‘Yours faithfully’.
Finally read your covering letter.
- Check your grammar and spelling.
- Have you included all your contact details?
- Is it clear and concise?
- Does it highlight your achievements and demonstrate the value you’d bring to the role?
If the answer to either of the last two points is ‘No’, reword it.
Good covering letters stand out. They are intriguing. They lead an interviewer to think ‘I want to see this person’. Make your next covering letter a good one.
QUESTION: What one change will you make your next covering letter even better?
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