Is your supporting message strong enough?

Whether you’re one of many competing for an advertised job, or applying to a company on a speculative basis, it can be a real struggle to get noticed. This is why your CV should be accompanied by a compelling cover letter / message, to highlight why you are the best candidate, before they get in to the detail of your CV. Consider a CV your brochure and the accompanying message your intro sales letter.

Your accompanying message must be highly relevant to the role you’re applying to, whilst remaining succinct and easy to skim read. This is your single chance to draw the reader’s attention to your most relevant skills and experience to their vacancy, whether or not these are also tucked away somewhere deep in your CV.

The reader, who is shortlisting candidates for potential interview, is likely to be extremely busy so if your cover letter doesn’t read well, or quickly convey your potential suitability for their role, they may not even make it to your CV.

Follow these simple steps to create a focused and compelling CV cover message:

  1. Wherever possible your cover message should be addressed to a named individual, which is not always obvious or possible, especially for online job applications, so you may need to research. If your email is addressed to them individually they can already tell that you’ve taken some time and are serious about your application. Here are a few tips to finding the right name:
  • Review the company website and look for a contact name/profile.
  • Phone the company’s switchboard to ask for the name of the person handling these applications.
  • LinkedIn is an excellent way of finding names and job titles. This also gives valuable additional information on the Recruiter or Hiring Manager’s background and interests.
  • Search the internet for eg “IT Director” Unilever, although not all online directories are kept updated, so it’s worth cross-checking, or limiting your search results to the past 6 months.
  1. Personalise your subject title so it catches their eye. If you’ve been referred to them by a third party then include this eg “Subject: Introduction from Joe Bloggs” or include your name and the title of the job you are applying for eg “Subject: Jane Bloggs – Senior Network Engineer
  2. Your cover letter is the first impression they will have of you, so make it count. Poor spelling and grammar will immediately create a poor image. Remember, spell checkers are great, but they can’t identify between form/from or six/sex!
  3. Keep it brief and highly relevant, so they look forward to reading your CV. Never more than a page in length, written in your own style (not so formal that it becomes stuffy) and make it easy to skim read.
  4. If emailing your CV, include your cover message as the message body rather than another attachment, as empty messages with only attachments are more likely to be caught by spam filters and not reach the recipient.
  5. As mentioned, it’s critical to highlight why you are relevant for the role and what you can bring to their business, but you should also give consideration to the Recruiter / HR perspective. Make it very clear that you have the mandatory skills and experience contained in their job spec.
  6. Look at your application through their eyes. Have you answered the core question “Why should we interview you over the other applicants
  7. If possible, include a relevant reference to their business eg “I notice that you’re setting up a new project team in London” or “Having just won the XYZ project in Manchester and seeing that you’re actively recruiting I thought now would be a good time to contact you
  8. Close by saying that you look forward to hearing from them, or that you will call them on X date, and make sure you stick to this. By doing so you not only differentiate yourself from others, but you also demonstrate initiative and show that this particular role is of real interest to you.

In today’s fiercely competitive world a compelling, well-written message is every bit as important as a professional CV, so invest some time making this work to your advantage.