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First impressions count: Creating a captivating cover letter

Opening If you know their name it's best to use this. If not, stick to Dear Sir/Madam

Paragraph One - Why you're writing Include a few sentences discussing that you are writing to apply for the role and how you came to hear of the vacancy. Try to keep it interesting!

Paragraph Two - Why you're suited to the role Here you can expand on details listed in your CV. Use this paragraph to link your own skills to those needed in this job role indicating that you are fully equipped to succeed within the role. Remember; where experience may lack; attitude and motivation can make up for it so make sure you illustrate your enthusiasm throughout your application.

Paragraph Three - Closing Thank the employer in advance for their time and consideration for the job role. Tell them that you're looking forward to hearing from them in the near future.

End the letter with 'Yours Sincerely' if its to a named person or 'Yours faithfully' if not. Joe Bloggs

Beating the competition: Help your cover letter to stand out from the crowd

Now you have mastered the basics, it is time to enhance your cover letter and separate yourself from the competition. Follow up - In your letter, why not provide an opportunity for follow up action e.g. 'I will telephone you on Friday to discuss this role in more detail' or 'I am available for an interview'.

Read the company's mission statement - Most companies will have their values or mission statement on their website. Aligning yourself with these values will show how well you will fit in with the company culture e.g. 'I admire XYZ's value of corporate social responsibility as working with local charities is something I am passionate about.'

Be enthusiastic - If you lack experience, attitude and motivation can make a huge difference. Express your energy and enthusiasm throughout your application and get the recruiter excited about you!

Use keywords - Many recruiters use screening software to sort the huge numbers of applications they receive. Make sure your cover letter makes the cut by including key words from the job specification.

Be humble and confident - Accentuate your positive attributes (without being cocky), by focusing on how they will benefit the company.

Screen your social media - Ensure your social media presence doesn't let you down. Employers will often check your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn when considering your application. A 140 character rant about how much you hate your boss could cost you the chance for a new position.

How not to write a cover letter

Your cover letter should be coming together. It's time to check for some easy mistakes to ensure that your cover letter gets you the attention you deserve!

Don't be too generic - Being a 'hard working' 'team player' might not be enough to differentiate you from the heavy competition. Use specific examples of your best work or useful qualifications to show how you will be a great addition to their team.

Don't be too informal - As many job applications are done online and via email, there is a temptation to use a relaxed and over familiar tone. Although there is some room to add your personal touch, remember you are applying for a job and a professional tone is expected. Addressing the hiring manager with Mr/ Mrs/ Miss/ Dr and signing off with 'Yours Sincerely' are easy ways to remain formal and polite.

Don't be too formal - Okay, admittedly this may seem like a contradiction, but there is a difference between using a professional tone and becoming over formal and loosing meaning. Clarity is paramount.

Avoid overusing 'I' - This is a tricky one; after all you are writing about yourself! Try to not use 'I' at the start of every sentence for some variety. For example: 'I have experience in sales' could be substituted with 'During my 2 years as Account Manager, I gained experience in sales.'

Do your research - A careless error like misspelling the name of the company you are applying to is unforgivable to most employers. Go the extra mile and find out as much as you can about the company to help you write a targeted letter.

Keep it simple, keep it short - Simple, clean cover letters can't be beaten: a good guideline is to keep your paragraphs to no more than seven lines and the whole letter to no more than one A4 page.

Proofread and proofread again! - Just check it one more time! Read it backwards, ask a friend to check it through for you. You will kick yourself if a spelling or grammar error slips through the cracks.


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