Most candidates do express difficulty when faced with having to write an effective covering letter. The covering letter is difficult because there is the question of the right style, format and how to empower the employer. A good covering letter can go a long way in helping you to get the job.
A covering letter is an absolute necessity. Without it, the application is incomplete. A CV is not a stand-alone document; it needs a covering letter to confirm and draw out the relevant detail of the CV. The purpose of the covering letter is to:
- Introduce yourself to your prospective employer
- Advise that your CV is attached
- Sell your strengths
- Show your value
- Confirm your enthusiasm
- Explain your background and level of expertise
- Supply any additional information that is requested in the advertisement
- Cover any concerns that the employer might have about you such as your age, experience, level of expertise, health or family circumstances
- Ask for an interview.
The thing to bear in mind is that there are different types of covering letters. Each type of letter has a different outcome, tone, approach and message.
The covering letter in response to an advertisement
The advertisement will give you an indication of the type and amount of information that is required. This letter has a standard format and style. You will need to consider how you are going to include things like why you consider that you are the best person for the job, why you are enthusiastic about the position and why your expertise will be of benefit to the employer.
The cold/speculative covering letter
Your job target or the job market you are working within may mean that you have to introduce yourself to companies in the form of a speculative letter as there are not too many jobs advertised. The aim of this is to write a good business letter and fulfil the company’s needs. You will need to be selective in your approach, to deliver a good opening, which focuses on the employer rather than on you and to explain and sell your experience.
The friendship covering letter
A friendship covering letter is the hardest of all of the covering letters to write. Friends include not just your closest and dearest pals but anyone who knows your name – in fact, anyone who can help you in your job search. Don’t rule anyone out prematurely, because they may be able to help you. Make sure you rebuild old times, explain your situation, tell them how they could help you out, ask for advice and ideas and end on a friendly note.
Things to avoid
Most covering letters fail because they don’t empower the employer. In other words, the candidate focuses too much on their needs and not on the employer’s needs. So the covering letter doesn’t add anything to the application. This could be because the letter is:
- A ‘weak’ letter, which states only that the CV is enclosed rather than reconfirming your areas of expertise. An ‘arrogant’ letter, which will put off employers. Perhaps it implies or states why the employer should take on the applicant, or explains how the company should run its business.
- A ‘humorous’ letter, which will normally misfire. The joke will almost certainly be on you.
- A ‘creative’ letter, which has its place in the PR, advertising and marketing fields. Here almost anything goes and a letter of this kind will be appreciated, rather than going over the top of the employer’s head.
- An ‘old-fashioned’ letter, which puts the reader off. So many candidates change personality in their covering letter. They use terms that were probably used over fifty years ago, including ‘in the furtherance of’, ‘for your perusal’ and ‘prior to migrating my career’.