Whilst not every job requires a cover letter, for many job applications across industries, it is mandatory. Even if it’s not required, this document can be vital in securing an interview.
There are 6.9million people unemployed in the UK alone at any one time, which does not include those who are currently in employment and looking for their next job. Just 2% of applicants are successful in getting past CV stage to get a first job interview. Whilst skills and qualifications can be very similar across CVs applying for the same role, your cover letter is your only chance to show your personality, passion and unique potential at the beginning of the recruitment stage.
Whereas a CV is a list of your past work experience, qualifications, skills and recent achievements, your cover letter is your opportunity to showcase yourself as a unique individual. Think about the following questions, and use the answers to guide you:
· What compelled you to join this career path?
· What’s your journey, and what are the reasons behind the decisions you have made across your career path?
· What are you passionate about?
· Why do you want the job?
· What makes you unique?
· What makes you the best candidate for this role?
The last two points are centred around your USP: the Unique Selling Point that will help you stand out from the crowd. Every engineer and technician has at least one thing, whether skills, knowledge, communication abilities or expertise in using certain tools or programmes, that differentiates you from other applicants. Use your letter to highlight your USP and relate it to a problem or issue your potential employer is facing. This will grab the attention of your reader and provide an instant talking point for your job interview.
Cover letters are even more important if you’re a young person looking to start your first job, or if you’re an experienced person looking to change industries or career paths. Even if your work history does not exactly match the job application, use your letter to promote your passion in the industry and the company as well as your potential to create a positive image in the mind of your potential employer.
Research the company you’re hoping to join. As well as looking at their website and social media channels, find recent news articles and speak to contacts or former colleagues in relevant networks about the company – these activities will each give you a very different insight into the organisation. Website content and articles will present the brand image that the company wants to have, and social channels will show how the business wants to connect with its customers. Discussions with impartial contacts and unbiased news coverage will tell you more about their situation and challenges. Researching competitors may also provide you with useful information.
Think about the audience who will read your letter: who are and what are they looking to find? A hiring manager or internal recruiter will want to match you to the company’s culture and goals; an external recruiter will also be matching you to the company, but will place equal importance on the job description; and a CEO or Director leading your particular department will be time-poor and will need to quickly scan your document and pick out the most important information quickly. Tailor your document to your reader, the company and the role.
Whoever they are, your reader will be able to tell if you haven’t tailored your document to the role, and they will interpret this as a lack of interest in working for their company. Use your research to highlight your skills and experience to Make sure you include the name of the company in your letter, and refer to one of the challenges they’re having and how hiring you would help to address it.
3. Use Careful Structure, Tone & Formatting
When starting your letter, use a standard, user-friendly font like Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri to increase readability. Bullet points help to make your key achievements and USPs stand out, and shorter paragraphs are more appealing to the eye.
Being by addressing your reader personally e.g. ‘Dear Mr Smith/Dear Ms Jones’ if you know their name, and ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ if you don’t. End with ‘Yours sincerely’ if you know the name of the reader or ‘Yours faithfully’ if you don’t, before writing your full name. Include the date and the full address of the company at the top left-hand side of your page.
The best cover letters are polite, positive and enthusiastic. Regardless of the type of role you’re applying for or how senior the position, maintain a professional yet personable tone throughout your letter. Thank your potential employer for taking the time to read your application, and politely end by saying you’re looking forward to hearing from them.
The person hiring for this role isn’t interested in overly long words or sentences, and they won’t be impressed by industry jargon or clichés. With the average number of people applying for a job at 118, your reader has to sift through over a hundred CVs in a short period of time. If your CV is clear, easy to understand and pleasant to read, your recruiter or hiring manager will be more likely to invest time in reading it and putting you forward to the next stage of the recruitment process.
As most organisations will read digital copies rather than printed hard copies, you can add links to your professional profiles like LinkedIn, blogs and publications that you have contributed to. These will help to further differentiate you from other applicants and provide an insight into your personal interests and achievements and well as the professional ones.
Whilst proofreading may seem an obvious element in writing any document, errors can be easily missed after spending a long time cultivating the perfect letter. Review your document to ensure that your personal profile matches the job requirements of the vacancy. Also ensure your cover letter closely matches the most important skills and experiences that are communicated in your CV, to provide a consistent image of yourself as a candidate. Keep the facts and details consistent – inconsistent dates or figures will make you appear dishonest or clumsy and could harm your chances of getting an interview, particularly in Aviation or Engineering roles where safety and accuracy are critical.
When you’ve finished writing your document, ask a trustworthy friend or colleague to read it through for typos, grammatical errors and mismatched information, and use an online proofreading tool to double check it. A little attention to detail can go a long way to help you land your next job.
Registering with a recruitment agency is one of the fastest, easiest ways to find your first or new job. Recruiters speak with hundreds of candidates every day, meaning that they know all the latest jobs and what will make you stand out when applying for them.
Working in partnership with experts in your industry who understand your wants, need and experience means you’ll be more likely to get ahead: your recruiter will open up doors for you and promote you to potential employers.