Want to know how to write the best cover letter, when you need to put in the effort, and what the content should be? Then read on…
Starting with the basics - here are the 5 components of best-practice cover letter template:
1. Introductory Paragraph
Introduce yourself and match your job title with the advertised one (if possible). Use your key Personal Value Proposition to show why you are a strong candidate. Read my blog on How to Create Your Personal Value Proposition for a simple framework on how to create these powerful statements.
2. Address Selection Criteria
Show your experience and achievements related to their top 4-5 selection criteria. Ideally, keep your answers to 2-3 sentences per criteria. This part needs to be customised for each cover letter.
Shortlisting CVs is about risk management. The first step is to eliminate anyone that cannot meet the selection criteria or has an unusual work history. For example, gaps in your employment or lack of industry experience. Talk about the elephant in the room and address any obvious concerns in your cover letter, otherwise, your CV may quickly get relegated to the rejection pile.
Tell them why they're awesome and why you want to work for them. Frame it in a way that shows the value you bring to the table.
5. Availability & Close
Inform them when you can start and your relocation plan (if applicable). Reinforce your motivation and thank them for the opportunity. Leave your contact details.
How long should a cover letter be?
Cover Letters should be one page and Selection Criteria can be 2-3 pages. Make the margins smaller and font 10 size if you need to. Never go over any specified word/page limit.
When (and when not) to send a cover letter:
Agencies – NO
Unless a recruitment agency requests it, you don’t need to send a cover letter. Recruiters are only interested in your CV because that is what will win an interview. After your CV is shortlisted, you may be asked to prepare selection criteria which they will submit with your CV to the client.
Employers - YES
If the employer is advertising a vacancy, then you’re expected to send a personalised cover letter that addresses the selection criteria (in the ad) and tells them why you will accept this role. You need to spend time personalising each cover letter. Usually one page long.
Public sector - MAYBE
Public sector organisations often request Selection Criteria instead of a cover letter. These are an important component of your application and need to be taken seriously. Usually 2-3 pages long.
How much do I need to brag?
A contentious issue. For my opinion on treading the fine line between positive self-promotion and arrogance, check out my blog "Selling Yourself & The Art Of Bragging".