Cover letters are your first impression on paper. It can take minutes, maybe even seconds, for someone to read your cover letter, glance at your resume and whack you in the shortlist pile. Or straight into the bin. So how do you avoid getting binned?
In a cover letter, those first few seconds are crucial. What they want to know is ‘WHY do you want to work for us?’
First, though, introduce yourself. In the opening sentence mention the job role that you are applying for. For example:
To the HR Manager, (or if given a name, for eg. Dear Ms Jones,).
“I would like to apply for the position of Junior Legal Secretary, as advertised on Seek”.
After the necessary intro, you only need three sections – 1. WHY, 2. HOW and 3. WHO.
PARAGRAPH 1 – WHY
You start with your WHY. Why do you want the role? For example “I am excited about this position as I have a keen interest in the legal sector, having developed this through my legal studies at school and when undertaking some work experience for Jonson, Daley & Smith”.
PARAGRAPH 2 – HOW
Then the HOW because you need to show how you will perform in the role. For example:
“I have excellent computer and written communication skills and have acquired some understanding of legal terms from my past studies and work experience. I can type 60 words per minute with 95% accuracy and have excellent customer service, developed through my 2 years of part-time work serving customers at Hungry Jacks”.
PARAGRAPH 3 – WHO
They want to know WHO you are as a person and how you will fit culturally in their team. Please don’t start ranting about your passion for manga comics or your favorite AFL team. Even though you are talking about you, it is still really all about them, so relate WHO you are to the role and the business.
If you live in the region, mention that. If you have a passion for the industry mention that too. For example:
“I would like to pursue further legal studies as I have always had an interest in law and a passion for social justice”. Find something that can tell them a little bit about who you are and make sure it ties into the role, their business or their industry.
FINISH. Then finish your letter with something that reminds them that you have read the instructions and are also keen on the role. For example: “I have attached my current resume and the key selection criteria, as outlined in the job advertisement. I am very keen to learn more about the role and look forward to your response”.
On a final note, (and if you’re still reading this far!) you might take heart from the true story below which shows how a bit of imagination and wit can set you apart from the crowd.
Award-winning Screenwriter Robert Pirosh was once a Copywriter for a New York Advertising agency before quitting it all and moving to Hollywood in 1934 to pursue his dream of becoming a Screenwriter.
When he got to Hollywood he sent every screen director and executive in Hollywood this letter. It secured him 3 job interviews and landed him a junior writer position at MGM. The rest, as they say, is history.
I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.
I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.
I have just returned and I still like words.
May I have a few with you?
385 Madison Avenue