HOW TO BE EFFECTIVE
People ask lots of questions about cover letters. Why do I need a cover letter if I’ve said everything in my CV? How do I write a good cover letter? What are keywords in cover letters and why do I need them?
In this post, we provide a step-by-step guide to writing a keyword-rich cover letter that will significantly improve your chance of getting an interview.
But before we start, let’s look at what a cover letter is and whether it’s even necessary.
As its name suggests, a cover letter is what you send alongside a CV when you apply for a job.
While the CV is an overview of all your skills and experience, a cover letter is written specifically for each job, drawing attention to the main reasons you’re suited to this role.
‘Yes’ and ‘no’. If you’re applying for a job online and there’s no way of uploading both a letter and a CV, or if the application specifically states CV only, you don’t need a letter.
However, if you can upload both, are asked to send both, or you’re applying by post, email or in person, having a well-written, keyword-rich cover letter alongside your CV can make the difference between getting an interview or not.
(Most jobs on the JobRocket database don’t ask for cover letters. However, the system does allow you to upload it along with your CV if required.)
While you should tailor parts of your CV for every job you apply for, a large chunk of it will remain the same. You can’t, for example, change where you were born and educated, previous positions, qualifications, etc.
Cover letters can and should be different. They complement your CV by stating why you want this job, explaining your current situation and drawing attention to key elements in your CV.
Cover letters also show potential employers that you’re keen; that you’re willing to do more than just the necessary; that you haven’t been lazy and just submitted the same old CV.
So, taking time to write a unique cover letter for every job you apply for is well worth the effort.
As well as reading the job description, find out as much as you can about your potential employer. If you can (sometimes recruitment agencies don’t say who the employer is until the interview stage) visit the company’s website. Read their ‘about us’ page. Read the latest news stories. Become familiar with their visions and values.
Look for subjects that resonate with you and your experiences. For example, if you read about charities they support, customers who’ve benefitted from their services, products they’ve pioneered, you can mention relevant connections (similar charities, customers or products you’ve worked with) in your cover letter.
Consider why you want this job, what excites you about working for this company and why you’d be a good fit.
List what makes you different from other job applicants, what unique qualities, experiences and talents you possess, what you can bring to the position that others can’t. Perhaps, individually, your qualifications are not the highest possible but, coupled with your other strengths and experiences, your ‘total package’ is exceptional.
Keywords in cover letters are the words that both Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs) and recruiters look for when trying to match applicants to job descriptions. They are a vital part of the job search and hire process. The more keywords you include, the more likely you are to secure a job interview.
Cover letter keywords tend to fall into three main categories:
Jobs and skills (carpentry, nursing, engineering, teaching, design)
Actions (analysing, researching, managing, writing, negotiating)
Results (increased productivity, won new business, saved money)
While your CV is where you list your job titles, skills, qualifications, previous employers, etc. your cover letter is where you can say exactly what you did in those roles.
Start by comparing the words in the job description with the words in your CV then pull out the matching skills keywords for your cover letter and expand on those.
For example, if the job calls for a minimum of 5 years’ experience in civil engineering, don’t just write “I have six years’ experience in civil engineering”, write what you did and what you achieved in those six years. Use strong action words.
• Analysed, adjudicated, built, created, co-ordinated, designed, drilled, drew, engaged, facilitated, governed, handled, identified, inspected, incorporated, liaised, mentored, moulded, nurtured, officiated, oversaw, planned, programmed, quantified, reported, reviewed, supervised, supported, sold, trained, underwrote, visited, wrote
Applying for a job is not a time to be modest. Use your cover letter to demonstrate your value by including examples of your success and recognition.
If you’ve helped your previous or current employer increase market share, reduce overheads, improve customer and employee wellbeing or won a major award, then say so.
• Achieved, awarded, accumulated, credited, developed, exceeded, generated, grew, honoured, initiated, increased, implemented, improved, multiplied, promoted, received, recognised, reduced, redesigned, saved, selected, upgraded
Armed with such rich material, your cover letter will almost write itself.
Write a first draft quickly. Don’t spend too long on making every word, sentence and paragraph right. You can do this at the editing stage. Concentrate first on getting all the essential information in the right order.
Capture the employer’s attention by stating clearly why you want this job and why you are the right person for it.
PARAGRAPH TWO AND THREE
Give an overview of your skills and achievements that relate directly to the job. Use lots of different skills, action and results keywords to demonstrate your experience.
Answer any questions the application asks for such as starting date, expected salary and when you’d be available for an interview.
End your letter reiterating how keen you are and that you’d be happy to provide further information and suitable references if needed.
Don’t be too keen to send off your letter as soon as you’ve finished it. Leave it for an hour or so (or overnight if you can) and read it again when you’re fresh.
Tighten up the opening paragraph so you get right to the point, lose any unnecessary words and waffle, check you haven’t made any grammar or spelling errors and, ideally, ask someone else to give it a once over.
And there you have it. The perfect cover letter to accompany your perfect CV.
JobRocket is a free CV optimiser tool and job searching website that uses unique AI algorithms to help job seekers get hired quickly and job recruiters get the best candidates.
It is owned and operated by Jobrocket Ltd, a limited company registered in England. Its registered address is 71-75 Sheldon Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9JQ. For more information see.