I was at an event recently when I met a hiring manager from a large employer in London, he talked to me about a project controls position which had become available and it really struck a chord with my experience. I asked a few questions and explained my background then asked if he would be interested in my application, to my delight he said yes and gave me contact details asking me to send my CV and cover letter to him. I am fairly sure my CV reflects the detail required for the role but I have little experience in writing a cover letter can you advise where to start? Sarah – Project Consultant, London.
Many thanks for your question Sarah let me start by saying well done for asking questions about the requirements for the role – this is a key starting point for the bulk of the letter. Ideally you should highlight specific examples of your experience which closely matches the role – avoid being theoretical, keep to facts. As this is a project controls role I would keep focus on where you have “policed” governance or put structures in place, talk though background briefly then what you were actually doing and the results achieved from this.
I know you mentioned your CV you feel is up to scratch, however, the CV needs to back up your cover letter – therefore you should read through the letter once complete then read through your CV to ensue it matches up. This is where many fall down, spending a long time creating a great cover letter then the CV doesn’t reflect this experience clearly. As cover letters often get discarded, it is important to make sure you really work on that CV or all that time will have gone to waste and you’ll be left wondering why you’ve not had a call.
Whenever anyone mentions cover letters I hear the same old sigh and comments such as; “Does anyone actually read them?!”. It is a bit of a lottery depending on who is reading your application but it cannot hurt to write one specific to the role and especially when applying direct to an employer it is courtesy. Remember you are being judged from the moment you make contact with an employer or recruiter – simply writing, “See attached” or even sending a blank email with your CV attached is not good form. Equally, writing a cover letter which is generic is also not adding to your application.
- When writing an effective cover letter you should look to address the person you are sending properly – if the job advert states the name of the person accepting the application, make sure you address it to them personally.
- Ensure you state where you saw the advertisement and what the role is (remember HR and recruiters deal with numerous roles at once).
- Look to add some strong content which matches up your relevant experience to the role itself – if the job advert states it requires someone who has implemented PMO procedures then make sure you add detail about a time or times when you have had this input.
- Do not copy and paste detail from your CV – you’ve already stated this.
- If the business product has a strong synergy to a current or previous employer – talk about this, demonstrating your understanding of the way the industry works.
- Do not be afraid to add into the letter that you will follow the application up with a call to discuss your experience further and state a date; then do as you say you will.
Remember you are one of a number of applicants for any one role – making an effort to tailor your application not only demonstrates your enthusiasm for this role, it also demonstrates your written communication skills and ability to follow up on pieces of work. As a project professional these are key qualities and as stated above, will be judged from the outset.
Making a smaller number of tailored applications will return a higher number of call backs and interview possibilities rather than applying for everything with the word project in it. Remember when dealing with recruitment agencies you will soon gain a reputation if you apply for everything, especially when the roles as so dissimilar. Create a good impression first time around and be remembered for the right reasons – you may not make it into the shortlist for that role but a new role may just be being qualified that has your name on it, a good recruiter will recognise this and have you top of the list to speak to for that role.
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