How to Write a Cover Letter
It should not be overly long, one to two pages maximum, and be concise and to the point. Most cover letters tend to ramble on and I have seen some up to 5 or 6 pages. No recruiter is going to read 5 or 6 pages of a cover letter, especially when they might have 50 to get through.
The Cover Letter is the first document a recruiter reads. It is the introduction that sets the tone for the Resume and, if required, the Key Selection Criteria or Statement. It is the ‘handshake’ of the first meeting if you like. It is that document that creates the first impression and, as such, is a vitally important presentation. You want the recruiter to be impressed with the cover letter enough to want to read the Resume. It is not a ‘oh please employ me’ document. It is a more positive, ‘here is why you should employ me’ document.
A cover letter should have
- Name address and contact details
- To whom it is addressed if known
- A simple statement to say what you are applying for, such as:
Please accept this as my application for the position of Box Girder Bridge Builder with the Mechanical Bridge Company.’
- Then a brief paragraph about you that justifies why you should be accepted as the ideal candidate. For example:
‘As a successful Bridge Builder of 20 years I will bring (Note the positive I WILL bring, rather than the less positive, I CAN bring) a wealth of applied knowledge and expertise to your company.’ Any credentials such as degrees, diplomas etc should also be added here.
This should be followed by a list of your skills and attributes that focus on the attributes and skills the position is calling for.
‘Skills and attributes I will bring to the position include
Extensive experience in building all types of bridges including Box Girder, Span Cable Stay, Arch, Cantilever
Excellent working understanding of health and safety, zero harm, and looking out for others
Strong time management and organisational skills, and ability to prioritise own workload
Proven leadership skills and success working with others within a team environment
Both experience and formal certification in confined space and working at heights
Ability to work unsupervised, independently and alongside other trades
Capable of adapting to different and challenging working environments’
Are some examples of skills and attributes.
The last paragraph could be a closing statement or two along the following lines.
‘I am a personable and hardworking individual, who gets along with colleagues and managers, and takes pride in quality workmanship and professionalism. Thank you for taking the time to consider my application for this position and I look forward to hearing from you to discuss it further.’
Then the ‘yours sincerely’ followed by your name.
If you can fit it all on one page that is best but up to two is acceptable, anymore and you run the risk of it not being read.
Most important is presentation. Layout, grammar and spelling must all be perfect. No strange or extraordinary fonts or sizes. Calibri, Verdana and Times Roman are the accepted fonts. Point size 12 is the ideal size. Most applications are presented online so there is no need for elaborate designs. Just plain text is sufficient.
Some last minute points. Never, Never, Never state a negative. ‘Although I don’t have a degree in Bridge building, I do have a lot of experience.’ Is a no no! Do not state what you cannot do, do not know or do not have. Instead only what you CAN do, DO know and DO have. Keep it positive, always. If you do not have something you feel they are asking for, do not mention that. Instead focus on what you can do. ‘I have 20 years successful experience in practical bridge building with a 100 percent safety record.’
If you have difficulty in writing about yourself as many do, here is a tip you can use. Write the cover letter as if for someone else. Using the ‘He’ or ‘She’. ‘He has 20 years’ experience …’ When you have finished the letter, go through and replace the He or She with I or my according to the grammar.
Lastly, get someone else to go through it to spot any grammar or spelling errors or typos if you can.
Following the above will improve your chances of being short listed for the next stage of the recruitment process.