When applying for a job, a cover letter is actually more important than your CV. It's your first opportunity to capture the hiring manager's attention. If it's poorly written or presented, the recruiter won't bother looking at your CV – no matter how pristine it is – and your job application won't get beyond first base.
Therefore, here are six points to bear in mind when you write a cover letter:
1. Read the job advertisement
It sounds obvious, but cover letters must concentrate on topics relevant to the job on offer. Cut anything extraneous information out. Firstly, read the job advertisement closely so that you understand exactly what qualities and qualifications the employer is looking for before putting pen to paper. Do some research on the company as well to find out its values and aims, then make this research explicit in your letter.
2. Personalise the letter
If possible, write the letter directly to the person who is looking to hire the new employee. 'Dear Sir', 'Dear Madam' or 'To whom it may concern' at the top of the letter is a complete turn-off, even if the hiring manager is not named in the advertisement. It shows a lack of initiative. Make inquiries to find out the name of the manager who is hiring, and he or she is sure to be impressed.
3. Be concise
Sport, like other competitive job sectors, tends to be deluged with applicants for most advertised roles. The employer will be looking for any excuse to throw your application in the bin, so don't give them one by writing pages and pages, using lots of grandiloquent language. At most, it should be one sheet of A4 paper long and should be concise, with sentences short, sharp and to the point. Also, don't repeat what is in your CV. The letter has one sole purpose; to whet the manager's appetite for reading your CV.
4. Use paragraphs
Do not under any circumstances submit a cover letter as one block of text. It shows no imagination. Break up your points into three or four paragraphs with sufficient space between them. First, explain who you are and why you are applying for the job. Then go into what qualities and experience you can bring to the role, briefly drawing on relevant elements of your previous jobs and also displaying some knowledge of the company. Finally, thank the manager for considering your application and draw his or her attention to the accompanying CV and examples of your work that you are submitting to support your application.
5. Check and double-check it
This is absolutely essential. A cover letter with any factual, spelling or grammatical errors will lead to your application being canned straightaway, as no employer will want to take on such a careless individual. Proof-read it at least twice, preferably on separate days when you are at your most alert. It's amazing how many mistakes can be picked up on a second read. Then, if possible, ask someone else to read through it, as a second pair of eyes is always welcome, particularly if they have experience of proof-reading or dealing with job applications.
6. Send it as a PDF
PDF is the best format for cover letters and CVs. It is neat and generally easy to open, whereas Word is too variable, so much so that some companies can't even access Word documents. Also, Word documents can be easily edited by someone else, and can sometimes suffer formatting issues when opened on a different computer.