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Does your cover letter suck?

Does your cover letter suck?

Cover letters have evolved over the years and what was considered appropriate twenty years ago has changed a great deal. If it’s been a long time since you’ve applied for a job, there are some essential things you should know about what to and not to include in your cover letter in 2016.

Firstly, let’s address if a cover letter is needed at all. We receive plenty of job applications without a cover letter and this won’t necessarily affect your chances of winning the role. However, an applicant that has taken the time to outline which position they’re applying for, their relevant experience and why they are applying for the position, gives a far better impression than someone who hasn’t. Also, an employer or recruiter may specifically ask for a covering letter to judge how thoroughly applicants have read the job ad.

Here’s what to include:

What position you are applying for
Briefly explain what position you are applying for. You don’t need to state how you found out about the job – if your recruiter wishes to know, they will ask.

Your experience relevant to the role
Briefly explain what experience you have that is relevant to the role. Our suggestion is to highlight your most recent relevant experience and then refer to your resume for further details. Again keep this brief, as your recruiter will be able to see this in-depth in your resume.

Why are you applying for the role?
A recruiter needs to understand your job situation straight away to ascertain your motivations for applying for the role. If you haven’t addressed this in your cover letter, you are one step behind other applicants who have explained their situation. For example, you should stipulate if you are currently unemployed, seeking a new challenge, recently relocated or returning from maternity or study leave etc.

Why you want to work for the company
It is useful for a recruiter to know if you have a particular reason for wanting to work for the company or in a particular type of role.  It will also demonstrate that you have researched the company if company details were included in the advert.

Address it to someone
We constantly receive cover letters that have clearly been used for previous job applications and are addressed to the wrong person. This demonstrates a lack of attention to detail and leaves a poor first impression. Our advice is to tailor each cover letter to the intended recipient or in the very least, use ‘To whom it may concern’.

Here's what NOT to include:

Your hobbies and personal pursuits
Whilst it is important to get a complete picture of a job applicant; at this early stage of the application, it’s not relevant. We want to know your skills and experience, your current job situation and your location first and foremost. Details such as your availability, credibility and personal attributes will come from a follow up phone call and any job interviews after your application has been received.

Salary expectations
It is important for job seekers to know what their salary expectations are and to conduct some research about salaries relevant to their market sector and level of experience. However, it will be considered poor etiquette to stipulate salary expectations in a cover letter. Save outlining this for later in the job application process. If you need to brush on up on your salary knowledge, visit our Salary Portal for detailed information on salaries relevant to role, location, sector and much more.

What’s already in your resume
Recruiters don’t want to read the same information twice on your application. Make your cover letter more about the why you wish to apply for the job and less summarising what’s already in your resume. 

We hope this serves as a useful guide for anyone preparing to make a job change and look forward to reading some well-executed letters in your future job applications.