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Don’t Jeopardise Your Job Application with a Poor Cover Letter

We all know that having a strong CV is important to showcase your skills, experience and achievements but what about your cover letter? Paul O’Donovan, Manager OCG Technology Christchurch, takes a look at how a cover letter is a vital component of your job application.

Though there’s a lot of talk about cover letters being a lost relic of the pre-digital age, in reality this simply isn’t the case. In IT especially, where skills between candidates can often be fairly comparable on paper, cover letters are a crucial tool for employers to gain an insight into an applicant; their competencies, motivations and how they’ll fit into a company. By taking care when constructing your cover letter, and ensuring you tailor it to the role you’re applying for, you can pique the interest of employers and put yourself ahead of the field. 

Doing the Groundwork

Before putting your cover letter together, it’s important to do some background research on the job you’re applying for. Note down a few key competencies that are mentioned in the advert, and do your research on the employer; who they are, what they do and how they do it. The next step is to find out who the point of contact for the job is. This is crucial, as many employers will immediately gloss over a cover letter that starts with a generic "To whom it may concern,” or "Dear Sir/Madam.”

If the person’s contact details are not available on the job listing, then it’s worthwhile looking at other channels to find out this information. With many companies having careers pages online or listing jobs on social media, you can normally find the right person. For example, if you’re looking at a Software Development role, search LinkedIn for the Software Development Manager. If all else fails, then pick up the phone and call the company directly to find out who to speak to. Remember, if you’re looking for work then job seeking is your full-time job – so going the extra mile can really pay off. 

Writing Your Cover Letter

When you start to write your cover letter, it’s crucial to tailor it specifically to the role you’re applying for. If it’s not specific for the role, it likely won’t add value to your application and will fail to help you stand out. Generic templates can also cause other problems, as it can be easy to forget to delete names and companies that are left in there from previous iterations. This can be pretty embarrassing when sending it off to a potential employer.

By creating a new cover letter for each role you apply for, you can better showcase how your skills and experience make you a good fit for the role. However, it’s important to remember that your cover letter is very different from your CV, as a CV is more skills based. You can go into further detail in a cover letter, so talk about how you can provide the key competencies required for the role and give quick examples of when you have demonstrated them in previous roles. 

The Importance of a Personal Touch

Most importantly for employers, your cover letter is a window into your motivation and personality. It’s a good insight into how serious you are about the role from the get-go, and this is especially important if you’re new to New Zealand. For new migrants applying for roles, illustrating your personal investment in the cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd. Tell them about why you moved here and that you have invested time and money to travel to New Zealand so you can meet employers in person. If you don’t have a work visa, then be honest about that in your cover letter but outline the steps you have taken to minimise the visa processing time once that job offer has arrived.

Tell them why you applied for the role, and which unique aspects of it caught your eye, otherwise you could risk being seen as someone who is applying for every job on the market. This can expose a lack of research and investment in the role and make it look like you’re not completely committed, which in turn will push you down the list of preferred candidates. 

Taking the extra time and care to give your cover letter a personal touch is important in a market like New Zealand, especially in Christchurch where I am based. It’s often a different kind of market to what many new arrivals, from overseas and within New Zealand, have experienced. It’s a lot smaller and many hires are secured by networking, referrals and word of mouth. Understanding this, and building your cover letter around it, will undoubtedly help you settle into your job search more comfortably. 

Summary

Naturally, you should also make sure your cover letter is proofread and correct in terms of spelling and grammar, and kept succinct at around a page in length. Once you’ve ticked all the boxes, and said everything you need to say, you can be confident that your cover letter will present you in a far better light and increase your chances of catching an employer’s attention.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments section. If you’re looking to find out more about the Christchurch or New Zealand job markets, feel free to get in touch.

Tags: Technology
Paul O'Donovan

Paul O'Donovan | Manager - OCG Technology Christchurch

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