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The Dos and Don'ts of Covering Letters

During the job-seeking process, it is crucial that candidates understand the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity available to them to show their value to the prospective employer. Writing a covering letter is an essential part of this process.

A covering letter is a vital piece of personal professional marketing that should accompany every CV application. Its function is to give candidates the chance not only to introduce themselves but also to expand upon and strengthen their CV. By following our guide to the dos and don’ts of covering letters, you can ensure that you have made every effort to guarantee that your next job application results in obtaining that much-coveted interview.

Dos

• Explain why you have applied for the job

Every covering letter should start with a paragraph outlining why you chose to apply for the job. What particularly interests you about the company? Why does the role particularly suit you? What makes you the perfect fit for the position?

• Tailor your covering letter for each individual position

Ideally, both your covering letter and your CV should be specifically tailored for each position you apply for. By taking a little more time and effort to do this, you show employers that you are expressly interested in them and that you are willing to go the extra mile. It also gives you the opportunity to pick out skills and attributes that are particularly relevant to each company.

• Show that you have researched the company

Employers often cite that what impressed them the most about a candidate’s covering letter was the effort that the individual went to in researching the company. Get a feel for the company’s ethos and personality, and tailor your covering letter accordingly. Mention any information about the company that you feel could be relevant.

• Express genuine interest in the company

Employers want candidates who are passionate about the role advertised. By expressing to the employer why this particular company resonates with you personally, you show how well you could fit into the company dynamics. Pick out key information about the potential employer that strikes a chord with you.

• Focus on the specific skills and experience which are relevant for the role advertised 

Think of your covering letter as the sales pitch for your CV. You should use this opportunity to pick out specific skills and experience which you feel make you the strongest candidate for the position. Refer back to the job description to ensure that you meet every point that the potential employer has asked for.

• Explain how you will be of benefit to the firm

Employers want candidates who will benefit their company with extra initiative, innovation, professionalism or efficiency. Use examples of past achievements, if applicable, to demonstrate your value.

• Keep your covering letter concise

We recommend that your covering letter consist of around three to four paragraphs. Employers often do not have the time to spend on reading lengthy applications, so the key is to keep your letter short and succinct.

• Make it stand out from the crowd

Think carefully about your potential competition when writing your covering letter. What are your unique selling points? What will make you stand out from the pile of applications to ensure that you are offered an interview? It is important to take time to think about what you can uniquely bring to the company that will set you apart from the other hopeful candidates.

• Proofread your covering letter

All Legal Secretaries and PAs should recognise the importance of proficient document production. This is your chance to showcase your excellent document production skills; use it to your advantage, and check for any mistakes in spelling, grammar or formatting.

Don'ts

• Talk about your current position if it is in a different field

Although it is important to show that you are professionally experienced, your current role will interest employers only if it is relevant to them. Focus primarily on the key information which applies directly to the role offered.

• Write a repeat of your CV

Your covering letter should not simply be a rewrite of your CV. Although it is important to refer to and expand upon the skills and experience you have outlined within your CV, your covering letter needs to be distinct and offer the employer a more detailed and personal approach to why you are suited to the position.

• Make your letter too casual

Although your covering letter should be less formal than your CV, it is important to retain professionalism in every piece of communication you have with your employers. Remember that in the future you could be corresponding on behalf of the company, so employers will take note of those who show exemplary communication skills. Take your time to write a personal but polite, professional and detailed letter.

• Focus on your attributes over your professional skills

Employers want practical evidence of your proficiency. Ensure that you shift the balance of your covering letter towards your tangible skills rather than what you are like as a person.

• Use generic wording like “a good team player”

Many people opt to use generic buzzwords and phrases within their covering letter, and this is precisely the reason why you should not do so. You need to be able to uniquely articulate your value so that you stand out from the crowd.

• Forget to include a covering letter – or your CV will not be looked at!

Covering letters are an essential and expected part of the application process. Including one could make the difference between your application falling short and you being offered the interview of a lifetime. Recruiters are not likely to look at your CV if you haven’t taken the time or care to include a covering letter. 

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