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The first question we often get asked when helping candidates to find their dream job is: “does anybody really read a cover letter”
The answer is, yes, they do! Some hiring managers we have spoken to consider the cover letter more important than the individual’s CV.
So why are they so important? We know it would be so much easier to just let the CV do the work for you. If you do that though, you would be missing the opportunity to show your personality, explain in more detail how your skills and experience are needed by that employer and, ultimately, gain a massive advantage over other people applying for that role.
We have seen hundreds of cover letters, both good and bad. We have also helped lots of blind and partially sighted people make their cover letters better, which has helped them secure the job they wanted.
We have put that knowledge into this guide to writing a cover letter that gives you the edge.
The temptation is to have one generic cover letter. However, employers are on the lookout for this. They want to see that you are passionate about their organisation and the role they are advertising. If you submit a cover letter which looks like it has been written for every single role you’ve applied for, they will be able to tell and will discard your application at the first stage.
Feel free to recycle some phrases and sentences that you are particularly proud of, but never completely reuse a cover letter you have made for another job. The job market is very competitive, and you are wasting a means of getting that competitive edge if you do this.
Where possible, it is always best to address your covering letter to the hiring manager. You will find this on most job adverts or job descriptions. If a job advert says: “for further information on this role or for an informal discussion contact John Smith” then start your cover letter with “Dear Mr Smith”. It is always best to use Mr/Ms with either both first and sir name or just sir name.
Avoid using generic terms such as “to whom this may concern”
If you have been unable to find any information about the hiring manager, you could use “Dear Sir or Madam”.
Like the personal statement of a CV, you should make the opening paragraph of your cover letter as engaging as possible.
You should include the position you are applying for and consider a couple of short snappy sentences which highlight some of your past achievements, why you are passionate about the work you do and the excitement you have for the position/company you are applying for.
For the main body of your cover letter, it is important not to just copy what you have written in your CV. A cover letter offers the perfect opportunity to expand on those bullet points and provide a fuller picture of your skills and experiences and really hammer home why you are perfect for that company.
If you are struggling to decide what skills and experiences to concentrate on in your cover letter, you should look at the job description and person specification. Use this to guide what you will talk about in the main body of your cover letter.
Finally consider what the employer is looking for. You might think that the role you are going for will look great on your CV, it will provide you with lots of experience and skills that you want to develop, but is that what the employer wants to know? It is unlikely, so it is important that you make sure you highlight the benefit you can bring to them, what does your previous experience mean to them? They know the job they’re offering is amazing, they want to know why you are great for the role, not why the role is great for you.
We know it’s been hard work to get to this point and you are tempted to wrap up quickly but avoid this temptation.
Rather than saying that you look forward to hearing from them, use this section to really build on why you want the role or how you are a great fit for the organisation.
Consider looking at the organisations website and look at their mission statement and the values of the organisation and try and include these in your final paragraph. Let them know how their values match your own and why you are what they are looking for.
To prevent your efforts being in vain, it’s essential to do some final checks before you send it off. We would recommend having some time away from the cover letter before doing this, taking a break and doing something else or leaving it for the night and revisiting it the next day.
It is important to check your letter for spelling and grammar. it seems obvious, but we have seen countless examples of people submitting cover letters with spelling and grammar mistakes. When you are short listing multiple applications for a limited number of interview slots, you know which ones are going first – the ones with the spelling mistakes.
Setting aside some time to do some additional editing is also recommended. While a spell checker will pick up most spelling and grammar mistakes, there still might be sections that you want to change or reword when you read it again.
You could also send it to us for a final check. We will check the formatting for you and highlight any areas for improvement.
We will also give it the TPT two-check seal of approval:
We will give honest feedback and always make sure that the two-check approval is earned.