A lengthy essay, a regurgitated CV and no central point are just three of the mistakes job-seekers make with their cover letters.
And while you might spend less time on them than on your CV, a cover letter can be the difference between getting an interview and being passed over.
Speaking to job website Seek, the founder and consultant at recruitment company Milkshake Group Sian Havard shared five ways you can improve your cover letters.
A lengthy essay, a regurgitated CV and no central point are just three of the mistakes employers see job-seekers make with their cover letters on a daily basis (stock image)
1. Make sure you have a cover letter
It might not be the first thing that many employers look at, but not having a cover letter will immediately put you at a disadvantage.
‘All employers and recruiters ask for different things in their application processes, but it’s generally expected that you include a brief, relevant cover letter,’ Sian told the publication.
If you fail to do this, your application will probably be ignored, she added.
Many companies do their cover letters in different forms, so the recruitment expert recommends you take the time to have a look in the job specifications to see whether it states your letter should be attached as a Word document or merely in the body of your email.
Make sure that it’s well-written and doesn’t possess any spelling or grammatical mistakes.
That way, you know you’ll be starting off on the right foot.
2. Keep it brief
Sian explained that there is nothing worse than an overly long cover letter, which merely shows that the job-seeker didn’t know what to include and what to leave out.
‘Any email or attachment you send to a company you’d like to work at demonstrates how you might communicate with people inside and outside of the company if you worked there,’ she said.
Therefore, if you are long-winded, you are instantly showing that you are not an effective communicator.
The general rule of thumb is four or five short paragraphs and never more than one page.
If you find you are writing more when applying for a job, you simply must cut back.
A leading recruiter said the most important thing is that you get to the point of your cover letter, know who you’re talking to and address them accordingly (stock image)
3. Get to the point
In a similar vein to keeping it brief, it’s vital to reach the point of your cover letter sooner rather than later.
Sian said that the opening sentence of your cover letter should include both your objective and your ‘most recent qualifications’ so that the employer knows where they stand with you.
Leave the least important filler content to the end, and even with that, question whether it’s really necessary to include it at all.
4. Do not regurgitate your CV
One of the biggest mistakes many people are guilty of with cover letters is regurgitating their CV – with different words.
‘Include things like how you found out about the role, why you’re interested in applying for it, and any relevant understanding you have about the position and the company,’ Sian said.
It should never be repeating content from your CV.
5. Know who you’re talking to
Finally, the job expert said a cover letter is no good unless you know who you are talking to – and target it accordingly.
They should always be addressed to that person, and if you are simply not sure then it’s best to keep it formal and write ‘To whom it may concern’.
Most people do not like being addressed by the company name, so try and tailor your application to make it as personal as possible.
Careers and LinkedIn expert Sue Ellson (pictured) said some of the top mistakes to avoid are including a cover letter that talks to the key words of a job, but a CV that features none of them
What are the best things to include in your CV?
List all forms of education – high school, tertiary study, online courses, diplomas, certificates, apprenticeships
Display relevant training, the institution and completion year for each course completed
Include all past job titles, duties involved and expertise
Alter your resume for every job and relate your responsibilities and experiences to the position advertised
Share your significant achievements well
Write a succinct summary explaining career objectives and value to the organisation
Clearly highlight core skills by using bullet points
List the most recent and relevant position first to showcase skills and knowledge
List your interests and hobbies
Provide a good summary to showcase experience
Speaking previously to FEMAIL, careers specialist and LinkedIn expert Sue Ellson revealed her steps to writing the perfect CV – and the top mistakes to avoid.
‘So many times people will write a cover letter that perfectly matches the job description and then not include any of those key words in their CV,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘This means that when a job system scans the contents, it doesn’t find any of the key words it is looking for.’
Sue said other common mistakes include spelling errors and poor formatting which looks untidy.
‘It isn’t uncommon for people to exclude their email address and phone number from their resume, which should be avoided,’ she added.
‘I would also add that a modified LinkedIn URL should also be included so employers can have a look at your job history.’
For those looking to use the isolation period during the coronavirus pandemic as a time to update their CV, Sue recommends you be sure to include your previous jobs, experiences, skills, achievements, volunteer work (if any), interests and how the employer can contact you.
‘The achievements need to describe your value in terms that the employer understands, so if you are switching careers, you need to focus on your transferable skills as well as document your other skills,’ Sue said.
You should also take the time to practice writing the perfect cover letter, and also update your LinkedIn profile so that it’s relevant with your experience.
A good cover letter should predominantly outline and summarise your resume and why you are best suited for the job position available.
For more information about Sue Ellson, please click here.