Should you include a cover letter in your application?
A cover letter should always be part of your job application unless the listing instructs you differently. It introduces you to a prospective employer and helps you explain why you're the best candidate for the position.
Make sure it's short and concise, with three to five paragraphs that can fit on an A4 size page. An effective cover letter should be well-structured and tailored to a specific job advertisement.
However, when it comes to cover letters, it’s not a one-size-fits-all process. There are many different types for different situations and can be used to address:
Gaps in employment
Highlighting postgraduate study
Here are some tips for writing a successful cover letter.
Cover letter explaining gaps in employment
Gaps in your CV can sometimes be difficult to explain, but they should never be ignored.
If you don’t mention gaps in your employment history, they may be misinterpreted by a prospective employer.
Proactively explain these gaps in your cover letter, and what you did during the period you were unemployed. Focus more on what you learned and the skills you acquired in this period, and provide evidence where possible.
Cover letter for a career change
Career mobility is common, so It may be the case that you’re looking for a change in career and are looking for a very different job role to your current position.
In your cover letter, you will need to explain why you want to change direction. Most importantly, you need to connect your skills and experience to the new job.
For example, you may want to switch from working as an environmental engineer to a chemical engineer. You can transfer skills from one field of work to another, such as analytical skills or project management skills. Highlight this transferability and how it can make you a stronger candidate.
Conclude your cover letter by mentioning how the hiring company will enable you to change, and how your current experience can add value to the organisation.
Speculative cover letter
If you’re looking for a job in a competitive industry, you might find that not all roles are formally advertised.
This means being more proactive with your search and reaching out to companies directly. To do this, you should write a speculative cover letter.
Before writing a speculative cover letter, research the company and get an understanding of the type of work it does. It’s also helpful to find out about the organisation’s goals and values so that you can tie them back to your own personal work values.
In the letter, explain the type of role you’re looking for and then demonstrate your research by explaining why you’d like to work with the company.
It’s also important to include your skills and experience (ideally, try not to restrict yourself by focusing on one particular skill).
Master's degree cover letter
Knowing how to sell your master's degree qualifications will help you get your next job.
Explain how your further studies will be beneficial for the position, for example, you could demonstrate how a master's degree in project engineering has equipped you with additional skills that the company needs for the advertised job role.
In your cover letter, highlight relevant skills that you’ve picked up during your master’s, such as infrastructural design or data analysis.
It’s also important to highlight work experience where you have applied these skills.
Cover letter for an international position
In technical and engineering sectors, there are plenty of opportunities to work overseas.
As with any cover letter, you should make sure your cover letter talks about the relevant skills and experience that show you are suitable for the position.
Additionally, you may need to do some extra tasks like translating your cover letter to a different language.
Tips for writing an effective cover letter
Source: Vlada Karpovich/Pexels
Employers and hiring managers receive a lot of applications every day, so it's important to make your cover letter stand out.
Here are some helpful tips for making a lasting impression and increasing your chances of getting hired.
Tip 1: Customise your cover letter
Write a cover letter for every position you're applying for and tailor it to the job description, rather than keeping the same letter for every application.
This may be time consuming, but if you send a generic cover letter, recruiters may notice that you did not put in the time and effort to apply for the job.
Making your cover letters personal to each role will show that you are truly interested in the job you’re applying for.
Tip 2: Proofread your application
Double-check your cover letter and correct any grammar and spelling mistakes.
Print out a copy of the document and recheck it to make sure it's error-free.
It might be useful to have a friend or colleague proofread your job letter as well, so they can catch any mistakes you might have missed.
Tip 3: Identify unique selling points
Confidently outline the unique selling points that position you as the best candidate for the job.
Explain how your skills and field experience meet the job requirements, and again, tailor this to the company and job role you’re applying for.
Tip 4: Use examples
Explain how you have used your skills and give relevant examples to back up your claim. Examples and evidence make your application more credible.
A cover letter tells your prospective employer a lot about you. It should be brief and to the point while making a good first impression.
Tailor your cover letter so that it can achieve its purpose. Finally, remember that your cover letter should complement your CV, rather than duplicating it.
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This post was written by: Toby Brown, Contract Recruitment Director