Cover Letter Hacks: Tips & Tricks
In just a few months time you’ll have completed your course of studies, and are looking forward to applying for job postings so you can land that dream job. Your plan is to start reaching out prospective employers a few weeks before you get your degree, so that by the time you have your Bachelors or Masters degree in hand, the interview calls will start coming in.
Job prospecting is an art (and a science…all rolled in one!) that should be practiced well before graduation – RIGHT NOW in fact; and it all starts with learning how to write a killer Cover Letter.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the trend of job vacancies in the public and private sector is moving in the right direction – upwards and to the right. Between November 2015 and November 2016, the number of vacancies has risen by 8.3% – so that’s the good news.
However, there’s another side to job prospecting that soon-to-be graduates must be aware of: For every job vacancy posted, there may be just one person hired, but there are hundreds (if not thousands!) of applicants that were either rejected outright, or not considered fit for an interview! Many promising applicants, who might very well be better qualified than the candidate who is finally hired, go unnoticed.
And that’s where your Cover Letter comes in!
There is no guarantee that even a well written Cover Letter will land you the job. However, that’s not really its primary objective anyway. The role of the Cover letter is NOT to get you employed right away; its purpose is to flash in front of employers and shout “Look at me…I’m here too!”
Most organisations, both in the private and public sector, have multi-layered hiring processes that start with an initial screening of applicants. If there are 3,000 applications received for any given position, it is likely that less than 10% of those candidates will be called for an interview.
A well written Cover Letter will get you sufficient attention to ensure that your application makes it to the ranks of those “fortunate 10%”!
GOING UNDER COVER
Under the cover of your Cover Letter, you are really trying to get employers to take a closer look at your skills, qualifications and educational background, just long enough so they think it might be worthwhile interviewing you. In order to achieve that, your Cover Letter must meet certain criteria – otherwise it will end up in the pile of the “unfortunate 90%”:
- Be Brief: Employers are busy people. They don’t have time to peruse through a 3 page Cover Letter. Keeping it brief is the first rule to getting noticed
- Be Professional: Most professional organisations prefer to interview prospective candidates that “seem professional”. A Cover Letter written in multi-colored fonts, with excessive use of bold and capitalised letters, and containing embedded graphics, is likely to immediately put you at the top of the “unfortunate 90%” pile
- Be Relevant: Take time to study the job advertisement carefully – it reveals a lot about the type of candidate the employer wants to hire. For instance, if the posting gives you a sense that the company is looking for someone to ease a particular “pain point”, then make sure all of your education and experience relevant to that “pain point” is clearly articulated – preferably right at the top of the letter
- Be Confident: Cover Letters provide employers a glimpse of the applicant’s personality. A Cover Letter that ends with a statement such as “I shall try my very best to support you in any way possible….” Is more likely a candidate for the “90%” pile; while a statement like “I have all of the skills, education and background to help you accomplish your goals…” will probably land you an interview
- Be Empathetic: A Cover Letter that’s empathetic with the organisational culture is more likely to get you to the next step, than one that sounds ‘cold’ and ‘aloof’. An opening for an Accounting position should be responded to with a Cover Letter that contains facts and figures about your background: “Top 1% of graduating class of 2016”; “Met 100% of my target for 17 straight quarters”; “Delivered 10%+ revenue improvement year-over-year for the past 3 years”.
This Cover Letter approach will likely not appeal to an employer looking to fill a position for a Creative Writer, where the organisational culture is more toned-down and subdued.
As you start building your Cover Letter, remember two very important things:
- The Cover Letter should not be a substitute for your CV
- The Cover Letter is how you show employers what value you can add to the organisation
Resist the temptation to summarise statements from your CV. Take advantage instead, and provide supplemental information related to the specific job posting in your Cover Letter.
And finally, make sure your Cover Letter is picture perfect with respect to spelling, punctuation and grammar – even though the job might not be for the position of an English professor. Attention to such details is what makes a killer cover letter and gets employers to sit up and take notice!
Here at Kaplan Business School, we have a highly committed team of career specialists that are passionate about finding our students jobs, and also providing services like help with resumes, cover letters and other career counselling and guidance services.
Our students are encouraged to reach out and connect with any one of our on-campus career specialists; or to go online and take advantage of the wealth of resources that we have created especially for you.