Career academy - article 5 interview

Write down your motivation

The cover letter is the first thing the recruiter sees. It's what introduces you and your CV. And just as you wouldn't turn up unannounced on their doorstep, you don't want your cv turning up "unannounced" on their desk. Although there's no such thing as the perfect letter, following a basic formula will help you on your way and make your cover letter a worthy build-up to your CV.

Writing your cv

With the advent of email and the subsequent speeding up of communications, it has become far more acceptable to send covering letters which have been typed on a PC. In fact, in many instances, applicants are invited to email their CV, leaving handwritten responses trailing behind.

However, regular recruiters such as personnel managers and recruitment consultants, can spot 'standard letters' a mile off. The key to making an impact when you are typing your letter is to customise it as much as possible to the job for which you are applying. This may take a little more time than if you are simply changing the address details, but take the time to do it.
 

Four key stages:

First paragraph : Explain why you are writing; make sure it entices them to read on – if you're replying to an advert, say where and when you saw the advert and if there is a reference number, quote it.

Second paragraph : Briefly explain your job and qualifications (professional and/or academic) – don't give too much away or they may not want to go on and read your cv; if you are replying to an advert, make sure the skills you specified are reflected in your CV

Third paragraph : Say why they should employ you and why you would be a good employee; tell the company a little about themselves (eg 'As the largest mastic asphalt spreading company in the south?') – to demonstrate you know something about the company too; find out more about them before you apply.

Fourth paragraph : Lay down an 'action plan' - say you would like the opportunity to meet them for an interview and you'll await their response or that you will make a call in a few days to see if this is appropriate (you don't have to leave the ball in their court, although be wary of seeming to 'pester' - and if you do say you are going to call, then make sure you do)
 

Do's and Don't's

- Do make sure your letter is addressed to the right person at the right address; spell everything correctly
- Don't send your letter to 'sir' or 'madam' - find out who the right person is – either a department manager or HR manager – and address it to them
- Do make sure you put all your contact details on the cover letter, including address, phone numbers, email address; if the prospective employer can't get hold of you, you won't get your interview
- Don't send your letter without checking the main body of the text for spelling mistakes, typos, strange grammar, bad punctuation, coffee cup rings or smudged ink – make sure it's perfect
- Don't write reams – your letter should be short, succinct and to the point; there is no reason to duplicate the details shown in your cv
- Do use bullet points if you need to – it can be easier and quicker for the reader to scan; but still include a proper introduction and ending to your letter (bullets should be framed by proper paragraphs)
- Don't send your cv without a cover letter – the cover letter is the introduction to your CV
- Do make your letter bespoke – customised to the employer; anyone can download a standard cover letter, but personalisation shows you're serious
- Don't include negative information such as personality conflicts with previous employers, details of tribunals or adverse comments on your current employer
- Do pick out specific traits or skills mentioned in the job advert and demonstrate why you think you are suitable
- Don't use long words simply to impress – if you are using words you wouldn't usually use, then don't bother; it's an unrealistic representation of yourself and the reader may not understand what you are saying (similarly, don't get someone else to write the letter for you)

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