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The Art of a Cover Letter

Last updated 22-Apr-17 08:51

I graduated six years ago. Yes, that’s right. I have been a graduate twice as long as I was ever a student. But it’s only been in recent years that I finally understood the need for a cover letter. I spent my uni days and early career thinking a cover letter was a bit of a waste of time and pointless repetition of my CV. I would start sentences with the phrase “as you can see on my CV blah blah” or “I’d like to draw your attention to xyz experience” which I now realise was a waste of valuable persuasion space!

A CV and cover letter application process, like any other, is your chance to persuade the recruiter to ask you to interview. So if you spend your cover letter just re-hashing your CV, you’re not doing yourself any favours. Your CV content is more or less set out. You need to include contact details and all relevant qualifications, skills and experience. One big glaring omission to the CV however, is why you actually want the job.

Now you might be thinking “I just want any job” but its common sense that an employer is looking for someone who really wants their job. Your cover letter is where you can tell the recruiter exactly what appeals to you about the job and the company. You’ll get caught out if you aren’t sincere on this though so if nothing appeals to you, then you really shouldn’t be applying for the job. Look on their website, in particular their company values or recent press releases so you can reference these in your cover letter. For my application to Grads East I talked about how I wanted to work for a social enterprise and being a proud local lass, I would be motivated by their mission to help local growth by retaining graduates in the region (and it must have worked because I got the job!)

I was talking about this very thing with a final year student not so long ago and he was concerned that including that type of content in the cover letter would be unprofessional, but I disagree. Enthusiasm is not unprofessional and showing the company you are applying to that you understand and like their values and work ethic can only be a good thing. Just remember enthusiasm doesn’t mean all the rules go out of the window. You should always use correct business terminology, good grammar and match your tone of voice to that expressed on the company website.

So, don’t make the same mistakes as I did with your cover letter. Use the opportunity to tell the recruiter what your CV doesn’t!

Good luck!



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