Behind every CV is a good cover letter…

A cover letter is an essential part of almost every job application. Not only do you have to make sure it sells your skills and abilities to recruiters, you also need to do it a clear and concise manner – that ultimately persuades the reader to want to meet you.

We’ve already covered what a cover letter is, but here’s our step-by-step guide to help you get started on writing one:

Do your research

First things first, you need to do your research.

Take some time to look into the role you’re applying for and the company – and use this information to tailor your cover letter accordingly.

Here are a few key things you should find out before you start writing:

  • What does the company do?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • Who are their target audience?
  • What does the role involve?
  • What are the essential skills?

Once you’ve found answers to these questions, you’ll be able to make it clear in your cover letter how your skills and abilities match up with what the employer is looking for.

Not only will doing research give you the knowledge you need to tailor your cover letter and CV to the style of the company, it also demonstrates that you’ve got a real interest in the specific role and company.


How to format a cover letter

Your cover letter should be well-presented, concise, and to-the-point.

So use an easy-to-read font, and don’t get carried away with embellishments. No pictures, no Comic Sans, and definitely no word art necessary.

Aside from ensuring its written using clear paragraphs – it also should be the right length. Too long, and you’ll risk rambling (and/or boring the recruiter); but too short, and you’re unlikely to have covered everything.

Aim for half a side of A4 (or one page maximum), and you’ll be on the right track.

 

How to address a cover letter

Cover letters should be addressed to the person dealing with the applications.

Usually, this will be shown somewhere in the job advert – and if not, don’t be afraid to find out. Start by visiting the company’s website to track down the name of a relevant recipient, and if you have no luck there – there’s no harm in simply calling and asking.

Not only will you be able to address your letter accurately, you’ll also demonstrate your initiative and genuine interest in the role.

If you manage to find a name – address with ‘Dear Mr Smith/Dear Ms Jones’.

And if you don’t? ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ will suffice.

 

How to structure a cover letter

Although there are no set rules on how your cover letter should be structured, making sure it flows well is vital if you want to impress recruiters.

Here’s a rough guideline of how your cover letter should look:

 

Opening the letter – Why are you getting in touch?

The opening paragraph should be short and to the point, explaining why you’re getting in touch. It’s also useful to include where you found the ad i.e. as advertised on reed.co.uk. If someone referred you, mention their name in this section.

Example: I wish to apply for the role of IT Manager, currently being advertised on reed.co.uk. Please find enclosed my CV for your consideration.

 

Second paragraph – Why are you suitable for the job?

Briefly describe your professional and academic qualifications that are relevant to the role and ensure you refer to each of the skills listed in the job description.

Example: As you can see from my attached CV, I have over three years’ experience in the IT Industry, and I believe the knowledge and skills built up during this time make me the perfect candidate for the role.

 

Third paragraph – What can you do for the company?

Now’s your opportunity to emphasise what you can do for the company. Outline your career goals (making it relevant to the position you’re applying for) and expand on pertinent points in your CV – including examples to back up your skills.

Example: In my current role as Senior Marketing Executive at Software Company X Ltd, I have been responsible for increasing incoming client enquiries for our B2B product lines by 156% in under 12 months, which helped the business increase its revenue by 55% year-on-year.

 

Fourth paragraph – Reiterate

Here’s where you reiterate your interest in the role and why you would be the right fit for the role. It’s also a good time to indicate you’d like to meet with the employer for an interview.

Example: 
I am confident that I can bring this level of success with me to your company and help IT Company LTD build upon their reputation as one the UK’s fastest-growing software houses. With my previous experience and expertise, I believe I can start actively contributing to the business as soon as possible.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss my application further.

 

Closing the letter

Sign off your cover letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ (if you know the name of the hiring manager), or ‘Yours faithfully’ (if you don’t), followed by your name.

Reed Career Advice

At Hire a Hero we are always meeting with new businesses who are interested in advertising job vacancies within their company on the Hire a Hero website.

These are companies who support the Armed Forces community and more often than not have a great appreciation for the work ethic and the transferable skills that ex-military personnel have to offer.

We regularly update our website with new vacancies and the easiest way to keep updated is to sign up to receive our job bulletin but also regularly checking the website yourself.

Here are some of our hints and tips for applying for a vacancy on the Hire a Hero website:

Have a thorough read of the job description

Each job on the Hire a Hero job map will include a description to give you an insight on the role, skill requirement, often salary expectations and how to apply. Have a thorough read of the job description to ensure that you fit what the company are looking for in terms of skill set and any qualifications but most importantly does the position interest you? If it does and you have the skill set then great, it is time to get your application across to the Hire a Hero team.

Follow the instructions

The job descriptions will also include details on how to apply. Often you will be required to send your CV and covering letter directly to the Hire a Hero team who will then look at suitability before forwarding onto the employer for consideration. At this point we sometimes email yourself making suggestions regarding your CV which, knowing the recruiter we feel will put you in a better standing to be a real potential candidate. All feedback from Hire a Hero is totally constructive and can always be discussed in more detail if you wish. If you are happy with your CV as it is and do not wish to make any adaptions then we will be happy to pass along your CV as it currently stands. It may also be the case that applications for the role are being taken online and if so we will direct you to the appropriate website to apply directly.

Adapt your CV

Adapting your CV to suit each role is really important. While it is vital to have a basic CV, ensure you tailor your CV and make adaptions highlighting key points that the recruiter is looking for. In a previous Hire a Hero blog we spoke about the 6 second CV scan and we are really keen to offer any guidance and support we can to ensure that you pass the scan and also stand out from other candidates.

Include a cover letter

Covering letters are always important and should not be overlooked as a waste of time or effort. A short and direct covering letter instantly makes your application stand out as well as being a personal introduction to the employer from yourself.

Await a reply

If you have sent your CV and covering letter through to Hire a Hero we will send you a reply confirming that we have forwarded your CV on to the recruiter. At this point the waiting game begins. Always keep note of what you have applied for and any closing dates to keep you on track and allow you to know who you should be following up with in the coming weeks regarding your application.

Ask for feedback

It is often the case that if you have applied and not been offered an interview then an employer is reluctant to offer feedback, this is frequently due to the number of allications received and not enough time to give constructive feedback to all applicants. This being said, there is absolutely no harm in asking and following up on your application if you hear nothing back a few weeks down the line. This can lead to some action points for you to follow up with and also give you a better idea of why you were not successful and how you can make it better next time around.

Throughout all of this process Hire a Hero are there to offer support, guidance and advice in your search for employment. Our volunteer mentors work with ex-military personnel on an individual basis providing support on exactly this. If you have any questions or queries around the application process then do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Hire a Hero team by emailing: info@hireaherouk.org.

imagesJob searching can be a stressful and challenging time particularly in a competitive job market and even more so if you are a service leaver in your transitional period.

Remaining focused, dedicated, positive and confident is the best approach to any job search and creating a support network both professionally and personally will help you do this.

It can be hard to maintain your focus if you have been applying for numerous jobs without success. It can leave you feeling a little out of control however to keep focus during your job search ensure that you;

Get Feedback

If you apply for a position and hear nothing back. Get in touch with them and find out why. It may be the case, as with your job search experience, that you cannot get feedback however you are more than entitled to ask and often doing so can help you stand out. Feedback can be greatly useful as it may have been small things which made them decide against you, perhaps a spelling mistake on your CV, not demonstrating the skills required for the position, whatever the reason this should be viewed as constructive criticism and used to make your next application better than the last. One point is to be mindful of timings. If you applied for a position two days ago it is unlikely that the position has already been filled. You should hold off until you receive a rejection email/letter and then proceed with looking for feedback. If you receive no contact what so ever after applying give it 4 weeks and then call the company asking for progress on the position, if it has been filled and if so can you speak to the appropriate contact for feedback.

Move Forwards

Stay positive and confident in your abilities. If you managed to get feedback, use it constructively by taking it on board and moving forward with the advice. After all that’s what feedback is, advice on what you could or should have done. Focus on learning from the situation and making it better next time around. There is nothing wrong with not being instantly successful, almost no one ever is.

Have Direction

Set yourself goals and commit to them. Stick to your tasks and goals even in a setback and know what you are aiming for. If you are selecting specific positions to apply for then make sure you know the closing dates for applications and more importantly dedicate the time to ensuring you are on track to meet these deadlines. Being properly prepared and knowing that you put your all into each application will maintain your confidence in your job search.  It may take time but it will pay off eventually.

Maintain Self-Belief

You need to know that you can add value to a company and believe it. You need to sell yourself through your CV, cover letter and during an interview and this means knowing what you are good at and playing to these strengths. Confidence and self-belief will help you a great deal in your job search but one point to be aware of is that you do not cross the line into arrogance. No matter how superior or experienced you are always remember that you are the one being interviewed.

If you are a service leaver in your transitional period and looking for help or advice in job searching then get in touch with us info@hireaherouk.org. We can help and guide you through your transitional period.

Stand Out: A cover letter will set you apart from other applicants

Stand Out: A cover letter will set you apart from other applicants

It can often take a long time to get together a really good CV. A lot of work and effort goes into getting your CV just right and then you find out, you need a cover letter too. ‘Do I really need a cover letter?’

Bottom line is yes. You really do need a cover letter. Military leaver, top company executive, student graduate, everyone should have a suitable cover letter when applying for any position and here is why.

A friend of mine is leaving her current position and working her four week notice period. Her employer asked if she could advertise the position online to allow them time to interview and have a replacement for her departure. The position was posted online at 10am on Wednesday morning, over the next two days she received 120 applications by email alone. This is why you need a cover letter.  Employers often have several hundred CV applicants to go through and of those you have to stand out. Perhaps they should spend an equal amount of time going through each but they don’t.

Sitting starting at a pile of CV’s what stands out? A direct cover letter telling the employer exactly why you are the employee they need to have in their company. The cover letter will get your CV noticed and without it you are just another piece of paper in a pile of CV’s.

So what is a cover letter?

A cover letter is your first interaction with the potential employer and gives you the opportunity to explain why you are applying for the job and why you are the right candidate for the job.

How do you write one?

When you start to put together your cover letter answering two questions will give you a clear idea of what you need to say: What does the employer want to hear? and what do I want my cover letter to say about me?

Your cover letter should ideally be addressed to a named person. This makes it a lot more personal. This can be difficult if perhaps there was no named given of who would be dealing with recruitment though this can be solved through a simple call to the company. If you really run into difficulty with this then a simple, Dear Sir or Madam, is suitable.

You should then move onto which role you wish to apply for, how or where you heard about the position and letting them know you CV is attached for their consideration.

Keep your cover letter short and make sure you hit the key points;

  • Why you are applying for the job
  • Why you are the best person for the job
  • Show interest/knowledge of the company
  • Highlight things on your CV relevant to the job

And remember to always end on a positive note.

Once you have your cover letter together your CV should back up everything you have said through qualifications, experience and skills.

There are many common mistakes that people make in their cover letter so make sure you avoid;

  • Your cover letter being too long. It gets boring and in turns reflects badly on you.
  • Don’t just repeat everything from your CV. A cover letter is more conversational so make sure you pick out key qualities and skills to focus on.
  • Try not to go off point. Keep focus and direct everything to the job you are applying for.
  • As with your CV it is easier to have a cover letter template though you must make alterations if you are applying for different positions. If you have one generic cover letter you use to apply for a number of different positions it will sound hollow and a lack of effort become apparent
  • Check, check and triple check. Spelling and grammar tells a lot about a person so get someone else to read over once you believe you are finished. Sometime a fresh eye can pick up on errors you might have scanned over.

Applying for a position without a cover letter leaves out some vital answers that an employer will want to know from the start. Why are you applying? Why should we employ you?

In this difficult climate it is important that you stand out from the crowd as you never know how many people you are competing against so get practising your perfect cover letter and don’t be pushed to the side.

If you are at all unsure about your cover letter or CV then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us info@hireaherouk.org.

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