At Harrison Careers, we’re often asked “What’s the point of a cover letter?”, “Do I need to submit one?” and “Do you think my cover letter is any good?”. We have read hundreds of thousands of cover letters over the last two decades – so we’re pretty good at answering these questions!

This article contains advice on how to help you improve your cover letter.

Once your resume has made it through the Applicant Tracking System and past the critical eye of the recruiter, the next most important thing is the cover letter that accompanies it. Yes, you need one!

The function of the cover letter is, fairly obviously, to introduce you and to demonstrate how you fit the requirements of the role you’re targeting. Think of it as a tool that speaks directly to the recruiter, telling the story of your career journey and showcasing the skills that make you a great candidate for this role.

Below, I share a few of my tips two write a great Cover Letter and ensure that you stand out from the crowd:

1.         One page!

In contrast to resumes, which can occasionally be more than one page, a cover letter should NEVER exceed a page. Brevity is key – use 4 or 5 succinct paragraphs, and highlight your specific skills using succinct bullet points.</p >

2.         Easy to read and consistent

As in your resume, use a professional font (e.g. Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri or Cambria), at least 10pt in size, and make sure that your resume and cover letter “match” aesthetically.

3.         Check, check and check again!

Recruiters have no tolerance for spelling or grammatical errors – so proofread your resume thoroughly, avoid long or overly-complex sentences, pay attention to the wiggly red or blue lines under words on your computer, and check your letter for overall readability. Then have someone you trust read over it for you!

4.         Address the letter to a real person

Interestingly, this is one of the most common questions my clients ask. My advice is to always address your cover letter to an actual person – it truly is worth a quick google search or phone call to the company to find out this information if it is not stated on the job description. And always address your letter to someone directly. (If you really, really can’t find out, then it is acceptable to use the person’s job title, e.g. “Senior Finance Analyst Hiring Manager”.)

5.         Tailor the letter to each position

You know why you want this exact job with this exact company – so tell the employer why you want it and why it’s a good fit for you. General cover letters are so, so much less effective than letters that are specifically tailored to an exact position – so make sure you demonstrate company-specific and role-specific information in every letter that you send out. Check the job description which will tell you exactly what skills the employer is looking for, and tailor your letter to highlight those skills.

6.         Sell yourself!

This is your opportunity to market yourself – so, in addition to showing that you understand the role you are applying to, you should use this letter to highlight your relevant skills, achievements, knowledge and experience. Don’t highlight your weaknesses or explain how your experience doesn’t fit the job description! Aim to sound genuine and enthusiastic – not overly formal or effusive. And don’t simply repeat everything that you say in your resume.

7.         Ask not what the company can do for you – ask what you can do for the company

Don’t focus on what the company can do for you – this is an incredibly common mistake that I see in many cover letters. The recruiter already knows what the company can offer you, and it’s probably pretty similar for most candidates. Instead, use your cover letter to demonstrate exactly what you can offer to the employer – i.e. the value you will bring to the organization, and to this role in particular. Show that you know what the company does and some of the challenges it faces – not necessarily specific challenges, but think about for example a trend that’s affecting the industry – e.g. “banks are grappling with how the changing regulatory environment will affect their processes/systems”; then you could talk about how your experience has equipped you to meet those needs/how you solved problems like this in the past. More than anything, this is what will make you stand out from the crowd.

Above all, convey enthusiasm – employers want someone who really wants this job, and enthusiasm conveys your personality and excitement about the role. Good luck!

At Harrison Careers, we spend all our time helping clients get and pass interviews with elite companies. Get In Touch to let us know how we can help you!