Careers

Five steps to an appealing cover letter

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Neville Rose, director of CV Writers, shares his tips on what makes an attractive cover letter for employers looking to fill environmental job vacancies

We carried out some research amongst HR professionals and recruiters to find out the value employers place on cover letters. The results were probably best described as ‘divergent’. Whilst two out of three respondents would read a CV regardless of a cover letter, one in three would only read a CV if a cover letter impressed them first. It is, therefore, vital to include a cover letter with your CV as part of your application.

Keep the letter brief

A good cover letter should be three to four paragraphs in length. If you have found your letter drifting to a second page then you are definitely including too much detail. It’s worthwhile remembering that your CV and cover letter are about getting you to an interview, they are not about getting you the job.

So what information should I include?

If there is one thing you take away from reading this article, it should be this: read and address the requirements of the job specification. Do this well and your letter will standout. If you haven’t read the job specification and simply write what you think the employer wants to hear then the chances are you will get this wrong.

Clearly the actual content will vary. As an energy or environmental consultant you may be required to have specific assessment qualifications or experience. An installation management role might require project and stakeholder management experience. Most job specifications will tell you exactly what the company is looking for. Even jobs with the same title may have very different requirements. For this reason, cover letters perhaps even more than CVs, demand a fresh approach to every application.

Use specific examples

It is not enough to simply say you can do something. You must provide evidence to support your claims. A cover letter is much more compelling when you give specific examples that demonstrate expertise. If you can back this with facts and figures as well, this acts as an unquestionable ‘stamp’ of your ability. Choose your examples carefully and make your points punchy and succinct.

What about personal circumstances?

As a general rule of thumb you only want to include positive information that will help your application. You are protected by law against discrimination in regard to race, sex, disability or age so there is no need to reveal any of this information. Other personal circumstances – such as caring for a relative or a medical condition – are probably best left to the interview.

The call to action

The main call to action for a cover letter is to get the person to read your CV. After all, it is only after reading your CV that any decision will be made about calling you for an interview. You should therefore finish your letter by positively and politely pointing the reader to your CV.

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