11:01am Tuesday 18th January 2011
Most people seek out advice on how to improve their CV, often spending a lot of time, and sometimes a lot of money, to make their CV the perfect job-acquiring tool. Unfortunately, the cover letter, and the significant role it plays in the job search, often gets overlooked.
It shouldn't be this way. The cover letter truly is the unsung hero of the job-hunting ritual. When done correctly, it is a finely-crafted tool that pinpoints your qualifications for a particular job and lets potential employers know, in a nutshell, why they should employ you.
While CVs offer the scope and depth of your qualifications, the cover letter extracts pertinent pieces of information and puts it prominently in front of the interviewer in a way that the CV simply can't. Here are some ideas to spruce up your cover letter:
Make a statement.
This is your first, and perhaps only, chance to make an impression on a potential employer. Use the cover letter to sell them on why you are the best choice for the job. Think of it as an advertisement for you and your skills. Make it persuasive, memorable and to the point.
Be charismatic and passionate.
While the CV reflects experience, it's "all business" and can't really convey your personality. That's where the cover letter comes in. Use it to showcase your spark, creativity or enthusiasm. Your CV may say you have taught Year 6 before, but your cover letter can convey the triumphs you felt when you got through to your students and can express your love of teaching.
Customise your information to the position.
When applying for a job, the job requirements rarely perfectly match the experience on your CV. Usually some points are more relevant to the position than others and that's when your cover letter works its magic. It helps the most appropriate information leap off the page and places it right under the reader's nose.
Show that you've done your homework.
The cover letter offers the perfect opportunity to demonstrate what you know about the company to which you're applying and how it relates to your experience. These additional nuggets of information may help give you an edge over other applicants.
Address irregularities in your CV.
If you stopped working and have been at home with your children for five years, your CV will show this gap in employment. Let the cover letter rescue you by explaining this interruption in your work history. It also can clarify why you left a particular position or what kind of work situation you are looking for (part-time, night shift, etc.).
Remember, both your cover letter and your CV are important tools in finding a job. Each has its purpose and, when done correctly, complement one another perfectly.