You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!
Your cover letter is an opportunity to sell yourself away from the formality of a CV, and at AAI, it can mean the difference between being shortlisted for a role, or not.
It’s the chance to tell us, and your potential employer, who you are, what your values are, and how this makes you the perfect candidate for both the company and the job role.
The following tips may seem like common sense, but you’d be amazed at how many applications we see from people who sell themselves short with generic, impersonal cover letters!
Things to Consider
1. Read the job description carefully and make sure you understand it: It may seem obvious, but understanding the job requirements is the first and most important step that many people overlook. Tick off the requirements one by one and use the same language in your CV and cover letter when possible to really hammer home that you can actually do the job!
2. Do some research: get yourself familiar with your future employer; who are they? What are their company values? What is their motivation? Understanding them, their mission and their culture will help you highlight your most relevant qualities when writing your cover letter. Remember – your cover letter is as much about the company and the role as it is about you!
3. The introduction at the start of your cover letter can have a big impact on your application. In a couple of sentences outline who you are and then explain very briefly why you are the perfect fit for this specific position. It is often the first thing the recruiter will see and first impressions are always crucial! If you know who the boss is, address it to them, if not, ‘to whom it may concern’ never offended anyone! Close your cover letter with a punchy ‘call to action’ about why you are keen to talk more about the role at an in-person interview soon.
4. Relevant experience: Providing evidence of relevant experience (which could be previous work experience, volunteering or even a university project) reassures the people involved in the recruiting process that you will be able to meet their expectations. Remember to include any positive outcomes that came from these experiences, for example, where an idea that you contributed was put into practice by an organisation, or you increased sales or social media engagement.
5. Make sure the reasons you are applying are clear: It is always useful to have another person read your application; if they cannot figure out the reasons for which you want this job maybe you didn’t state them clearly enough.
6. Finally – Keep it simple: Your cover letter should show your personality and credibility, and leave your potential employer wanting to know more. Keep it under 2 pages; 1 if possible! Sign it off with your name, email address, phone number and availability for interview.
As this is likely to be the first thing an employer reads, it’s important to strike the right note to introduce you in a way that fits the job, the company and you. Its tone will depend on the job and the sector. It could read:
“Please find enclosed my CV in application for the job of [insert job title], advertised in/on [publication or website]. I believe that my combination of skills and experience [and particularly my experience at x, or my ability to do y] make me the ideal candidate for this post.”
Alternatively, if you’re applying for a very unlikely career change, then you might want to acknowledge this with your first paragraph, and say something like:
“You may be wondering why I’m applying for this job when, on the face of it, my skills and experience are likely to be very different from most other candidates. However, I believe that this would be a great job for me, and my unique approach to it, bringing as it does [skill x] and [experience y] would be a great benefit to your company.”
The Main Section:
This is where you should really get into the specific requirements of the job and how your skills and past experiences fulfill them, making you suitable for the job. It can be helpful to highlight keywords from the job posting to use in this area in order to show that you are on the same page as the employer and fully understand what is going to be required of you.
It’s important to provide examples of when you have demonstrated proficiency in the skills required from the job to evidence that you do have relevant experience (even if not directly relevant to the job position).
Other useful phrases include:
“My ability to manage/run/achieve [x] speaks for itself: I have [list of achievements in x].”
“I hope it goes without saying from my list of previous jobs that I am [extremely flexible/good at timekeeping/whatever you want to demonstrate].”
“I first developed [skill y] in [job x], but have honed it since in [mention jobs].”
Once you have finished writing this section, go back over it to make sure that you have mentioned every skill and experience that is described as essential on the specification, as well as as many of the desirable ones as possible. If you haven’t mentioned all of the essential skills and experiences, there is a high chance your application will be rejected automatically.
The Closing Paragraph:
This is where you should wrap up your letter in a couple of sentences, making clear what action the reader should take after reading it, without sounding arrogant.
So it might say, for example:
“I hope this convinces you that I have the necessary skills and experience to achieve as [insert job title]. I look forward to hearing from you.”
If this is a letter, sign off with “Yours sincerely” if you have addressed it to someone by name, and “Yours faithfully” if you started “Dear Sir/Madam”.
You may find that your cover letter is now too long. Try to edit and polish until you have said everything that you need to say within two pages of paper (if a separate document) or approximately that if sending as a covering email.
It’s then a good idea to read through it carefully one more time and send it to someone trusted to read it over for you, looking for typos, grammatical errors, and inconsistencies. Try reading it out loud too. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll pick up then!
If possible, it can also be helpful if you can get somebody who knows something about the sector and/or job, to check your letter. They may spot potential problems or suggest ways that you could tweak your letter for maximum effect.
And that’s it! Your cover letter should now be ready to send.
Every great story starts with an opportunity.
Start yours with AAI.