A Guide on Making a Good First Impression
In our previous article, we explained how having an up-to-date CV increases your chances of success when searching for a job. A CV sells you, your skills and experience to a potential employer and helps you stand out from the rest. But, if a great CV is your gateway to a job interview, how do you get your CV read in the first place? Here, we explain how a covering letter is essential to getting your CV under the nose of an employer and making them want to read it.
What is a Covering Letter?
A covering letter is your introduction to a hiring manager. When you meet someone for the first time, you generally shake hands and introduce yourself. So, imagine meeting someone for the first time and, with no introduction, asked to be interviewed for a job. What would the other person think? Chances are they’d want you out of the door as soon as possible, ending your hopes of getting a job with them.
That’s what sending a CV without a covering letter is like. The letter is your handshake which introduces your CV to a hiring manager and invites them to view it in full. Your CV is a history of your career, but it tells the manager nothing about why you want the job. The CV gets you the interview, but the cover letter sells the CV to the hirer.
What Should a Covering Letter Include?
Covering letters can vary and the criteria changes depending on who you ask. Generally, a letter will include:
- Your name, address and contact details including phone number (if it’s a physical letter, not in digital format)
- The hiring manager’s name. If you don’t have it, a suitable introduction
- The job role and where you saw the advertisement
- A brief explanation as to why you’re suitable for the job
- What you can bring to the company
- Closing statement with a thank you for reading
If you have room, you could include a few highlights from your CV at the beginning. If you do this, they must relate to the job you’re applying for, or else there’s no point in doing it.
How Long Should a Cover Letter Be?
Anything between half a page and a full page is acceptable, but nothing longer than an A4 length. Keep it brief and to the point. It needs to introduce you and your CV, not repeat it.
How To Address the Letter
Wherever possible, address the letter to the hiring manager by name, but not by first name. If you know the manager’s name is Andrew Price, address the letter as ‘Dear Mr Price,’ not ‘Dear Andrew Price’ and definitely not ‘Dear Andrew.’ If you go down the ‘Dear Andy’ route, don’t bother writing the rest of the letter.
In the absence of a name, ‘Dear Hiring Team,’ or the old reliable ‘Dear Sir/Madame’ will have to suffice.
First Paragraph – Why Are You Making Contact?
This part of the letter explains why you are writing to them and what the aim of the letter is. Something on the lines of ‘I wish to be considered for the position of Administration Manager as advertised on your website and attach my Curriculum Vitae for your consideration.’
At this point, you can add in your CV highlights, but only if there’s room.
Second Paragraph – Why You Are Suitable for the Role
Here, you briefly describe your relevant qualifications for the role, referring to each of the skills listed in the job description. Invite them to read the CV by saying something like ‘As you will see from my CV, I have ten years administrative experience gained in a similar company to (mention company name) and I believe that my knowledge and experience that has built over the years makes me an ideal candidate for this position.’
It will help your cause if you research the company and, if you can, link where you have worked previously to them. They will be impressed that you have taken the time and effort to learn about their company.
Third Paragraph – Highlight What You Can Do for Them
Outline what you have achieved in your current or previous roles to demonstrate what they will gain by hiring you. If they have had numerous applicants, they are looking for a reason to reject, so make their job harder. Use something like ‘in my current role, I was responsible for designing and implementing a new customer service model that increased efficiency of administrative procedures by 50%.
Make sure your figures are accurate and honest. You don’t want to put 50% in the letter and say 25% in an interview. You will get caught out.
Fourth Paragraph – Drive Home Why You Want The Job
Tell them again why you’re a great fit for the company and what they’ll be missing out on, without actually saying you’ll be missing out. Try something like ‘I am confident I can bring the same level of success to (company name) and continue it’s strong reputation within the industry. With my knowledge and experience, I believe I can start contributing to the further success of the company as soon as possible.
Thank the manager for taking the time to read your application and request an interview, but without sounding desperate. Maybe ‘Thank you for taking the time to read my application and I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the role in more detail.’
End with a ‘yours sincerely’ if you know the name or ‘yours faithfully’ if you don’t.
A few things to remember:
- Never reveal anything personal about yourself. You could leave yourself inadvertently open to discrimination.
- Always proofread your work before sending.
- If you add your phone number, answer it if it rings. It may be an invite to an interview.
- A cover letter needs to be tailored to specific jobs, so be prepared to tweak it.
Still Unsure? We Can Help
At Hypnocat, we know how to make an impression with prospective employers. We can write your covering letter to suit the job you are applying for. We use the words employers want to read to persuade them to view your CV.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, so contact us today and we will help you get it right.