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7 essential tips for crafting the perfect cover letter

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A snappy, engaging and persuasive cover letter will be crucial to landing your next role. 

Now, your current template may have worked wonders in the past, but that won't always be the case.

It's time to ditch your old template and start over again. These seven tips might just prove invaluable...

1. Use the Acceptance Speech Technique

This technique takes some inspiration from the classic 'positive mental attitude' mantra. 

The idea is that you should get in the mindset of someone who's already been hired. Imagine you're in the kitchen on your first day, explaining why you chose to join the company to a new colleague.

It'll promote a positive mindset, and make sure you communicate in a friendly, professional and human way. 

2. Make your writing leaner...

Like any good piece of writing, what you take out is just as important as what you put in. Trimming your prose into leaner, more direct chunks will work wonders. 

A good tip Ernest Hemingway employed was to ban the words 'very' and 'really'. Try it for yourself. You'll be surprised how much more powerful your statements sound. 

If you want to go all out on this front, try the Hemingway App. It's an online text editor that'll flag prosaic faux pas like passive voice, overuse of adjectives and over-long clauses. 

3. Use George Orwell's rules of writing

Speaking of famous writers, George Orwell's maxims on clear, concise writing will also come in handy. 

They are: ‘Never use a long word where a short one will do’, ‘If it’s possible to cut a word out, cut it out’ and ‘Never use passive voice’.

Now these rules won't always work wonders. Sometimes you will need to use a technical term to describe your skills or your current role. But it's always worth keeping these in mind when you're struggling to make a clear point. 

4. Try and find out who you're writing to

It's likely 'To whom it may concern' or 'Sir/madam' will appear on just about every cover letter in the pile.

A letter addressed directly to the person is going to stand out from the 100 or so others with generic salutations.

It won't guarantee to capture the recruiter's attention for too long, but it might just buy you a bit of valuable extra time. 

5. Keep it to one side of A4 (if that)

There's a reason this blog isn't called: '67 essential tips for crafting the perfect cover letter'. 

Employers have very little time to read through every paragraph of every cover letter. The shorter and more concise it is, the more likely someone will bother to get through it.

If you can't sum yourself, your skills and your ambition up in less than, say, 500 words, you're either the most talented person in the world, or you're just not quite sure what your greatest strengths actually are.

 

6. Tick off their checklist

The job description should essentially provide you with a checklist of what they're looking for.

Your cover letter is the perfect opportunity for you to systematically check all those things off the list. 

They're looking for a team player, a self-starter, a born leader? Don't worry about parroting that key phrase back to them. Let them know you actually read the job spec! 

7. Focus on soft skills and mindset 

There's a time and a place for you to list your qualifications and your work experience.  

The CV and cover letter is a classic partnership precisely because the two complement each other without treading on each other’s toes. 

Keep the stats and the figures on your CV. Use the cover letter to explain how good a collaborator you are, how quickly you respond to failure, and how adaptable you are to change. 

 

That's the cover letter sorted, now how about your CV? Just click here for 20 quick and easy fixes.

 

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