So, you’ve found the perfect role for you that allows you to be a mum and make some money without having to do too much juggling or throw your work-life balance out of whack, and now you need to make a job application that shows off your skills, gets you noticed and ultimately bags you the job you so desperately want – what do you need to do?
Obviously, you need to write a CV that blows them away. However, before you do that, you need to create an enticing covering letter than ensures that CV is actually read and not just thrown straight into the bin!
The covering letter is like the trailer that convinces the audience they want to see the film – without it, attendance would be poor – so it needs to be really good if you want to get that job.
With that in mind, here are some quick tips for writing quality cover letters:
Actually Write One
Before we get into the hows of writing a great cover letter, it’s worth pointing out that you really should always send one along with your CV because it’s a great way of introducing yourself to the recruiter(s) and getting in a bit more background that you wouldn’t ideally put into your CV (which should really only be printed on a single page for optimum effectiveness). It’s also a good way of showing your enthusiasm for the role you’re applying to and a good way of catching the recruiter’s eye so that they bother to take your application seriously – something that doesn’t always happen when there are a lot of applications for a role.
Don’t Turn it Into a Second CV
The biggest mistake that people make when they’re writing their cover letter is to make it their CV 2.0. They basically rehash the information in their CV in a different format, and it is nothing but boring and unnecessary. Of course, you can include a couple of the main highlights from your CV in the cover letter to get the reader interested, but your cover letter should be markedly different.
Fist and Last are Most Important
When you’re writing a cover letter, it’s good to know that your first paragraph and the last line or two of your writing is the most important, because if the first paragraph is too boring or you start droning on about everything but the kitchen sink in it, the recruiter is likely to stop reading! When it comes to the last line, you need to make it memorable; it should be a call to action that almost makes it seem like a foregone conclusion that the reader will call you up and ask for an interview.
Mention the Company
Instead of making your cover letter all about you, try to add a few mentions of the company to show that you know what they do and that you are eager to work for them. It’s always a good idea to focus on the aspects of the business that you think are most attractive because it will make the recruiter feel warmer towards you.
You shouldn’t be overly boastful in your cover letter, but it is never a bad idea to look at the requirements of the job you are applying for, work out the 3-5 most important qualities for doing that job and then slip in some solid examples of how you fit the bill. Whether you’ve been working solidly in the industry for 20 years, or you’re just coming back to work after a period of looking after the kids, there will be things you have been consistently doing that will see you well in the job – mention them.
While we’re on the subject of going back to work when you’ve been a stay at home mum, don’t be afraid to mention this if you feel your experience in this area has given you valuable experience because most employers really do not discriminate against women who’ve had a career break and lots fo employers do value the skills that mums pick up. As long as it’s relevant, include it!
Add Some Personality
Your CV is likely to be pretty dry, stating just the facts, so the cover letter provides you with the perfect opportunity to add a little bit of your personality into the mix. If you’re going for a creative job, such as one in the marketing industry or publishing, you can afford to be really creative and write a story or create a magazine cover instead of a normal cover letter, otherwise, you’re better off sticking to using dynamic verbs and your own writing voice and style (no text speak or profanities obviously), but maybe slightly more formal, to give them a flavour of who you are and what you’re about beyond the information you are furnishing them with.
Keep it Brief
Cover letters shouldn’t be long and rambling, they should be brief and to the point, containing only relevant information that will show you in the best possible light without being an exercise in bragging. Like your CV, your cover letter really should not be more than a page long if you want someone to actually go to the trouble of reading it.
Address it to Something Specific
This isn’t always possible, but when you can it is better to address your cover letter to a specific person, Mr Johnson for example, than it is to start off with a Dear Sir/Madam, not only is this more personal, but it also shows that you’ve done your homework and you really are serious about getting the job. Most of the time, you can find the information you need to correctly address your letter on the company’s website or social media, so it doesn’t take too much effort to find it, and it will make a difference.
Include a Signature
Even if you have typed out your cover letter and printed it out ( you should probably do this – the days of handwritten cover letters and applications are long gone), you should make an effort to sign the bottom of the letter because it looks more professional and gives the letter an air of greater authenticity.
Check for Typos
One of the worst things you can do is send off a covering letter then includes typos and spelling mistakes, There really is no excuse for it when we have spell check and apps like Grammarly, which will ensure that any written document is word perfect. It’s especially important that you don’t spell any names incorrectly as that could be seen as disrespectful. In general, typos make it seem like you are a sloppy., slap-dash person when you want to come across as more methodical and precise if you want to get the job.
Make it Neat
As well as ensuring your cover letter is typo-free, you will want to ensure that it is laid out in a clean, crisp manner that is easy to read and looks good. You’d be surprised how many applicants don’t even use paragraphs, so if your cover letter is well-presented, you’ll already be well ahead of the competition!
No cover letter, no matter how wonderful, is going to get you the job alone, but in conjunction with an excellent CV, the right skills and good references, it really could push the balance in your favour. So, take the advice above, craft the best cover letter you’re capable of and secure that dream job.