The Top Eight Things That Shouldn’t be in your Covering Letter
By Jamison Barry
Whenever a job description lists that a covering letter is ‘optional,’ that means it’s really not optional for you. Not if you want to give yourself the best chance to impress the recruiting team and get your shot at an interview.
Covering letters are hardly a thing of the past. With the job market getting ever more competitive, a covering letter is vital to pitching yourself as the perfect person for the job. That being said, not many people know what makes up the ins and outs of a covering letter. Here are the top things that shouldn’t be in your covering letter.
Many government jobs these days come with position descriptions and key selection criteria that you will be required to address in your covering letter. Likewise, although not as rigorously, many jobs will list a set of criteria that you must have, e.g. five years of experience, a degree, and certain skillsets.
If you submit a run of the mill covering letter thinking it will get you the job when you haven’t read the criteria, the only place your covering letter is going to get you is back in the job market.
If your covering letter details why you absolutely must have the job over anybody else rather than using that space to sell yourself, you’ll find it very hard to get a job. Your covering letter, above all else, needs to focus on your experience and what you can provide to the recruiting company. It is not the place for you to discuss the status of your private life as recruiters are only interested in what you can do for them.
If you’re applying for a role as an IT specialist, no one really needs to know that you’re also certified to work in hospitality. Your covering letter should highlight the key experiences and qualifications from your resume that are relevant to the job listing. This also helps to keep it short and sweet.
Ideally, your covering letter should fit into one page at a maximum. Recruiters are not looking to read essays about your experience when they have hundreds of other applications to read through. If you can keep your covering letter under one page without reducing the font size to four, you’re on the right track.
If you start your covering letter off with ‘To Whom It May Concern’ your covering letter is going to become immediately uninteresting. The internet has provided you with all the tools to research the company to which you’re applying. Now, the name of a recruiter may not always be available to you, but there is a way to work around that. Rather than ‘To Whom It May Concern’ you can instead write ‘To the [company] recruitment team.’ It shows more interest in the company itself.
Specifics are your best friend. Your covering letter needs to sell you and you cannot afford to be wishy-washy about the details. If you are using career examples from your CV, make sure to include your best achievements. It should be detailed, but not verbose, otherwise the recruiter will not know why you are applying for the role.
The last thing any recruiter wants to see in your covering letter is mistakes. At best, it’s a misrepresentation of you, your skills, and your intellect – and at worst, it makes you look lazy. You should always read and reread your covering letter (and your resume too) to ensure you don’t leave in any mistakes. You’ve heard it all before, but reading it aloud makes a huge difference.
Your covering letter shouldn’t just cut off after your last paragraph. You should always finish your covering letter with a note thanking the recruiter for considering your application and complete it with a sincere sign-off.
If you still feel like you’re unsure about how to sell yourself in a covering letter, contact our team at Executive Agents for a consultation on how we can help you gain an advantage in the job market.