How to Write a Winning Cover Letter
Writing a cover letter can be a daunting task, but it’s one that’s necessary for most job applications. It’s important to get it right to help you stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons. We spoke with Naomi, a Recruitment Consultant who had plenty of advice about what you should and shouldn’t do. Here’s what she had to say about creating the perfect cover letter.
First, let’s talk about formatting
With cover letters, presentation is key. It’s the first impression you’ll make with any hiring manager, so you don’t want to lose their interest because the formatting is cluttered or overly complicated. Ideally, it should fit on one side of A4 – don’t let it run the risk of becoming an epic poem. Avoid handwriting it unless in exceptional circumstances. Instead, type it up and use a nice, easy-to-read font. Some organisations may ask you to attach your cover letter to your CV so everything can be uploaded as one document. In that case, it might be useful to save both as a PDF so the formatting doesn’t get thrown off when the hiring manager downloads the file.
What should a cover letter say about you?
At the very core or it, your cover letter should detail why you want to work for the organisation, what you’ve achieved in previous positions and how this relates to their current vacancy – focus on relevant skills and don’t digress. Don’t forget to research the organisation you’re applying to and tailor each cover letter accordingly. It’s really worth putting some time into each cover letter you write as this is what hiring managers will see before even looking at your CV. So relax, think about how you want to portray yourself and maximise your chances of being called to an interview by taking the time needed to make it professional, clear and engaging – and ALWAYS check spelling and grammar.
What do you need to include?
We can’t stress enough: research, research, research. You need to be able to tailor your cover letter to the specific organisation, so make sure you learn as much as possible about them. Where do they sit in the sector? Do any other charities compete with them for the same supporters? What sort of projects or campaigns have they worked on recently? By mentioning specific information about them in your cover letter, hiring managers will see you have a genuine interest in their organisation. Chances are, if you get through to the interview stage they’ll ask you questions that prove you’ve done your homework. No one wants to get caught out during an interview for not taking the time to learn what the organisation really does.
Next, you need to make sure you address the letter to the correct person. It may seem obvious, but if you know their name, make sure you state it. If not, Dear Sir or Madam is fine.
Then, you want to explain exactly why you are writing and which position you are applying for: ‘I would like to be considered for the role of Fundraising Manager’. It’s also a good idea to say where you found the position – for example on the CharityJob website, through a mutual contact, or whilst volunteering at the charity.
How to really sell your skills
Now it’s time to show why you’re perfect for the role! Describe your relevant professional and voluntary experience and education in the next paragraph. It’s also a really good idea to work your way through the job description and address each point, giving an example to show how you match the specification. You also need to show them that you relate to the cause the charity aims to help and that you are passionate about helping them to achieve their goals.
In the next paragraph, try stating your own professional goal or what you want to achieve in your career. Then show how this job could help you achieve it. End by re-emphasising your interest in the role, and why you are passionate about the work your chosen charity does. Close with ‘Yours Sincerely’ if you’ve used their name, and ‘Yours Faithfully’ if you’ve used Dear Sir or Madam.
Ultimately, the cover letter is your way of giving recruiters the extra bits of information that you weren’t able to include in your CV. Show them that you’re passionate about the role and why you’re the perfect candidate, and you’re likely to get through to the interview stage. Need a bit of extra help with your cover letter? Download our free cover letter template today.