Your covering letter is the key selling tool for you when applying for a job

 As we stated in our article last month, if you are looking for work, even though the timing may not be ideal, it is so important to remain positive and focussed with your job searching and a key part of this is to use some of your time constructively and productively.

Our last article was about getting your CV up to date. Focus this time is your covering letter which is a very critical tool in assisting you in getting you “noticed” by the recruiter. Writing a good covering letter is as important as writing your CV. Your covering letter is an important way to show your personality, whereas your CV generally is more factual, so do make sure that your wording reflects you as a person and your personality as opposed to just your skills and experience.

Simple key advice – having a templated covering letter is fine, but each covering letter has to be very specific to the role that you are applying for, your own specific skills and experience that you would bring to that role and showing that you have good knowledge about the organisation that you are wanting to work for – use words and phrases that match the job description.

Spend good time with each covering letter – it is so important. Here is a link to the Work Readiness Info Pack on our website which includes a short piece on “covering letters”,

Covering letter templates

You can easily find numerous covering letter templates on the internet. As a summary, ensure that your covering letter includes the following:

  • Short intro para referencing the job which you are applying for and stating your strong interest
  • Personal career summary highlighting your key skills, expertise and experience. You are “selling yourself” and covering key attributes which should match some of the “sought” skills in the job advertisement
  • Specific skills as they relate to the position you are applying for – these could be strong, sharp and bullet pointed
  • “Call to action” final positive para leading to the recruiter inviting you for an interview

In summary…

  • Make sure it is clear that you have read the job description/advertisement carefully and understand exactly what the employer is seeking with the position
  • Be positive and confident about your abilities relating to the position
  • Don’t “copy and paste” large chunks of copy from your CV
  • Keep the covering letter concise and to the point, not more than one page if possible
  • Try to engage with the recruiter/person reading the covering letter so that she/he will be looking forward to reading your CV

Some specific covering letter tips for older job seekers

Many of the tips for writing a CV apply for a covering letter

  • Don’t summarise your entire CV. A good covering letter doesn’t read like an autobiography or a shortened version of your CV. For older candidates, it is important to veer away from a sequential recounting of your employment, and instead focus on experience relevant to the job at hand.
  • Focus on flexibility. Mention your flexibility, adaptability, and willingness to learn in your covering letter. It will clearly show you as “young” and eager, even if you aren’t so young in years. Similarly, highlight any knowledge of current technology that you have since this is often a big concern for recruiters.
  • Be careful about salary expectations. If the job posting requests your salary expectations, note that you are flexible. That way employers won’t think of you as being overqualified and/or overpriced.
  • Not old-fashioned. It’s essential that your covering letter does not look old-fashioned. Watch for dated language, too. Your word choices can potentially make you seem older or younger than your actual age. Favour short, snappy sentences over longer, more complex syntax. Consider having a younger professional, preferably in your industry, read through your covering letter to make sure your phrasing doesn’t date you.

Learn more about who Seniors@Work are in their first article: Introducing Seniors@Work