If you started the new year or returned from your summer holiday feeling restless in your current role and determined to secure a better job, you’re certainly not the only one. June Frame of medicalsalescv.com explains how to ensure you stand out against other applicants.
So it’s a new year, and you are ready for a new job. Your updated and highly polished CV is ready to send off to a potential employer, but competition for good jobs is fiercer now than ever before and your application will be just one of many landing on the recruiter’s desk.
So how do you make a great first impression on your potential employer and convince them to read your CV and want to meet you? Even the most compelling and polished CV is still a fairly impersonal document – a generalised checklist of your achievements, skills and experience.
To clear that first hurdle and increase your chances of being selected for interview you will need a good, distinctive cover letter. One that grabs the reader’s attention and arouses his or her interest to want to know more about you.
Why write a cover letter?
To get yourself noticed and secure an interview. Consider the volume of CVs sent out everyday by recruitment agencies. A customised cover letter, tailored specifically to the role you are applying for, will help you to stand out from the crowd. It makes you real to your potential employer by revealing the person behind the CV. It is also a chance to show your writing skills. The better crafted the letter – the more memorable the CV the more likely you are to get a positive response!
In other words, a cover letter is an advertisement for your CV. Through your letter you are trying to establish an immediate connection with the reader, to ‘sell’ this person the idea that they want to meet you and ensure that your CV is read thoroughly. A well-crafted cover letter allows you to make your mark as a person and helps shape the hiring process to meet your needs and objectives. So even if you have just been asked to email your CV, don’t forget a covering letter – it’s not an optional extra.
“Through your letter you are trying to establish an immediate connection with the reader, to ‘sell’ this person the idea that they want to meet you and ensure that your CV is read thoroughly. A well-crafted cover letter allows you to make your mark as a person and helps shape the hiring process to meet your needs and objectives”
How should it look?
Be brief, straightforward and concise. Three or four paragraphs should be enough to convey your motivation, experience and personality. The job of the letter is not to replace your CV, but to summarise your suitability for the role by matching your skills and experience to what the recruiter is looking for. Edit your letter so that it fits on one page. This will keep you focused on the key points (and shows respect for the reader’s time).
A general outline First paragraph
– State clearly why you are writing and mention the specific role you are applying for. Second paragraph
– Introduce your experience and skills and link them as closely as possible to the role. Third paragraph
– Mention why this role/company is (genuinely) of interest to you, if possible include any personal recommendations or articles etc that have led you to apply to them specifically. Fourth paragraph
– Sign off with confidence and a call to action. A letter (unlike a CV) allows you to ask for a response such as a follow-up phone call or interview.
Be upbeat, this is not rude, (if done politely) and employers expect it. After all, the goal of the letter is to get your CV looked at and secure an interview.
The golden rules
For your cover letter to open doors it helps to keep the following rules in mind.
- When highlighting key skills and experience, focus on the needs of the employer – your cover letter should demonstrate that you will contribute to the company and provide solutions – but again, keep it brief! The biggest challenge will be to keep your letter short and focused.
- Display some knowledge of the hiring company – the internet is a great source of information, so do some homework on the company, its ethos, challenges, market place, products etc. Evidence of research into a company is not as common as it should be, but it will impress the recruiter.
- Any cover letter should be absolutely error free, remember this is where first impressions are made! No spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or poor layout. If sending by email, it’s best to include the letter as an attachment as you would with a CV. If you have to write your letter as an email, make sure that all the key bullet points are in the first screen so that the reader doesn’t have to scroll down.
- If sending a hard copy, use a laser printer and good quality paper.
- Always send your letter to a named individual, no ‘Dear Sir or Madam’. If this is not clear on the job advertisement, the HR department at the company you are applying to will be able to give it to you. It makes the letter more personal and helps if you want to make an enquiry when following up on the application process.
And some mistakes to avoid…
- Highlight your skills, but be factual, avoid sounding arrogant. Avoid statements such as “I am the ideal candidate”, in favour of something like: “I believe that my skills and experience make me a strong candidate”.
- Don’t highlight career goals – this is a time to display that your experience and skills match the role you are applying for. You are presenting yourself as a solution to the recruiter’s problem (in this case, a vacancy), so they may not be impressed by your career aspirations at that point.
- Never EVER mention salary. Employers sometimes use salary histories to screen out candidates who are too expensive or not experienced enough to have reached certain pay scales.
- Don’t introduce your reasons for leaving your last job – even if you feel you were treated unfairly, use your letter to shine not whine! Questions about employment history may well arise at interview and that’s the appropriate time to deal with them.
- Similarly, don’t point out any weaknesses in your experience. You need to give the employer a reason to interview you, not screen you out, so don’t be self-effacing.
A good cover letter, even an outstanding one, will not compensate for a poor CV.
Remember that the job of the letter is to arouse the recruiter’s interest to read your CV, so if it lets you down, and doesn’t demonstrate that you are a match for the role, you will still be unsuccessful. The combination of a concise and compelling CV, coupled with a well-written cover letter, will give you the greatest edge over the competition.
medicalsalescv.com specialises in working with individuals to secure their ideal job within the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. From writing compelling and concise CVs and cover letters through to personal coaching for interview, we offer solutions for candidates which greatly increase their chances of succeeding in the application and selection process.