A well written cover letter can be the difference between an interview invitation and rejection. In this article we explore 5 cover letter tips aimed at helping those looking to find work in Zambia.
5 Cover Letter Tips
Getting the cover letter layout right is vital. Remember that before the employer has even had the chance to read the content of a cover letter an impression will have been made based on layout and presentation. Therefore you should aim to ensure that you do not rule yourself out before you have the chance to rule yourself in. Cover letters are usually presented in a standard letter format. Unless specified by the employer the layout should include:
- The name, department and address of the employer as specified in the job advertisement
- Your name, address and contact details
- The date the letter was written
- A subject line that includes the job title and job reference number (if provided)
- A greeting (e.g. Dear Sir/Madam)
- A few short paragraphs of content (see Content)
- Sign-off (e.g. Yours sincerely or Yours faithfully) and signature
To download some sample Cover Letters (PDF) please click on the following links:
The formatting of your cover letter should be in keeping with the position to which you are applying. In most cases it is not necessary to use a background template, lots of colour or different fonts. If you are applying for a creative role (such as a graphics designer) you may want to showcase your creative ability – if not, stick to plain and simple formatting. Avoid inconsistent formatting such as inconsistent bullet points and line spacing as this shows a lack of attention to detail and can infuriate employers.
3. Less is more
It is often said that employers will spend less than a minute reading a cover letter. Whilst this is probably not true (the time taken to consider a cover letter depends on a number of factors, including the number of applicants, recruitment time-scale, job-level) what is true is that candidates will need to succinctly demonstrate their suitability for the role. Unless you are applying for a very senior a 1 page cover letter is appropriate. This should give you sufficient space to highlight your suitability for the role. Anymore than this and you risk waffling and/or burying information that should be easy for the employer to find. Writing succinctly is a skill and your cover letter provides the opportunity to showcase this skill.
4. Make a match
Skills and experience matching is a vital part of the recruitment process. The employer will have provided information on the skills and experience that they require in the job advertisement. For example, if an employer states that they require a ZICA qualified accountant with over 5 years accountancy experience and you meet these requirements – make it as easy as possible for the employer to find this information in your cover letter. This can be done in short sentences such as:
“A ZICA qualified accountant with over 5 years accountancy experience…”
or, in bullet point form:
- ZICA qualified accountant
- Over 5 years accountancy experience
It is vital that prior to writing your cover letter that you read the job description and highlight the employers requirements. You can then use this information to match the employers requirements with your own skills and experience. Remember, if you do not include this information how will the employer find this out? Also, do not be tempted to submit a generic cover letter as these are easily spotted and demonstrate a lack of thought and effort. Remember – make a match and boost your chances of getting an interview.
5. Make every word count
Try to make sure that every word in your cover letter counts – if a word does not add anything to your cover letter then look at removing or rewording. From the first to the last word each word provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate why you should be considered for the job.
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