“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt” - Sylvia Plath
Part 2 in our series on Applications looks at the Cover Letter.
Who writes letters anymore?! Yeah, we hear you! Whilst some firms have done away with this part of the application, it’s still used by employers to test whether candidates can write professionally, and whether they can sell themselves well.
Writing a good cover takes time to get right. Here are our tips on how to go about it:
First Impressions Count…
This is a professional document. Make sure it looks and reads like one:
One page max
Use a professional style 10-12 sized font (e.g. Ariel or Calibri)
Simple, crisp, professional layout
Include the company address, recipient details, date and sign-off/signature
Logical structure and flow
Tell Your Story
The benefit of getting to include a cover letter, is that it’s an open opportunity for you to tell your unique story - who you are as a candidate, why you’re interested in the role, why this company, and what makes you unique/your skillset/you as best fit.
For example, you can:
Demonstrate your knowledge of the employer (e.g. “I was interested to hear about the work your firm did on X at your recent campus presentation, because I…”)
Show your interest in the role (e.g. “I enjoyed learning about the role when speaking to one of your analysts at the careers fair, in particular...”)
Highlight your unique experiences (e.g. “During my exchange semester at X, I took the opportunity to...”) and skills (e.g. “I co-founded a start-up to help…”)
Show your personality (e.g. “I worked with a not-for-profit over summer, where I…”)
Explain any CV gaps (e.g. “I took a gap year after first year uni, to…”)
Discuss some unique learnings (e.g. “Working with industry representatives during the X consulting project taught me…”)
OK so everyone says this. And yes, we get that in reality you’re applying for at least half a dozen jobs. That’s all OK. But make sure you make an effort to customise at least some of your cover letter for the specific company you’re applying to:
Name Drop: if you’ve met a company rep, know a current employee, or been to the campus presentation, say so
Likes: if you know if a recent transaction, client or project the firm worked on, and it’s of interest, say so (and why!)
You’re Special: if you learn something about the firm that’s unique that clicks with you (e.g. their structure, rotation program, training, culture, heck a volunteer day or speaker series they support), then mention it
Show Them Your Best Side
CVs can all look a bit the same. Transcripts are so generic. But the cover letter is your moment to shine! Tell your unique story, demonstrate why you’re different to everyone else.
Don’t waste this opportunity - show how you tick the boxes through your unique skills and experiences. Make it personal.
So, if the employer is looking for:
Leadership potential? Don’t just say “I have strong leadership potential…” (oh so generic!), say “I have developed strong leadership skills through my involvement as president of X, where I…”
Problem solving? Instead of “I am a great problem-solver…” (eugh, rejected!), try “I had the potential to test my problem solving skills in the X National Consulting Competition, where my team…”
Teamwork? Don’t say “I am a great team player…” (really?!), but “I learnt the value of good team work, during my summer volunteering at X, where I worked with…”
How many cover letters have we seen, with grammatical errors, sentences that don’t make sense or glaring errors. Don’t make life hard for yourself. Proof read your cover letter.
Print it out and read it with a red pen - you always see more when it’s printed. Get someone you trust to review it - and listen to their feedback. It’s worth being 200% sure your letter is air tight… because it’s VERY hard to come back if you drop the ball on this one.
Oh, and check and double-check the company name and recipient before you submit it. Only amateurs get that wrong.
Writing your cover letter can be fun, and a real confidence booster. Take your time to get it right.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our “Killer Application” series and reach out with any feedback or questions for us.