The Buckmaster Hawkey
Cover Letter Guide
One of the most important tasks in attempting to secure the right job is writing a cover letter to an employer asking to be considered for a position.
It's an important task, but all too often, it's not done correctly!
Each month, the Buckmaster Hawkey team reads thousands of cover letters from candidates applying for all sorts of jobs, from receptionist to managing director. This gives us a unique insight into what makes an effective cover letter - and what can go wrong.
To help you find the right real estate position, we present the Buckmaster Hawkey Cover Letter Guide.
Before you write a letter
If you’re interested in looking for a new position, you should start preparing yourself and your cover letter well before you begin looking at job advertisements in the newspapers or online.
The first thing you should do is ensure your resume is up to date (see the Buckmaster Hawkey Resume Checklist). Your resume should help you distil some key points about yourself including:
• Your skills
• Your work experience
• Your academic achievements or other relevant qualifications
• Your attitudes which will be an asset to a business - such as ambition, your work ethic or adaptability
These points are the foundation stones for writing an effective cover letter. Once you have crystallised these attributes we suggest you start your process by writing a sample cover letter which you can then use as a template for future applications.
The look and feel of your cover letter
You will need to spend time and effort and put some thought into writing a professional and effective cover letter to ensure you have the best possible chance of securing a job interview. At the same time, it’s important to realise that most application letters are not read closely.
That sounds like a strange contradiction, but it’s an important concept to understand. Cover letters need to be well written, factual and to the point; elaborate and long winded descriptions will not help. That’s because most letters of application are opened on a computer screen and quickly scanned by the recruiter who is looking for certain points of information.
What information will a recruiter or employer be looking for in a candidate? These are usually found in the job advertisement, and are typically attributes like:
• Attitudes and Aptitude
• Fit with Workplace culture
If your cover letter has the right answers to these questions, and spells out succinctly that you have these attributes, you will be identified as a candidate qualifying for closer scrutiny. If your cover letter doesn’t cover these points, you’re out of the game.
Your cover letter therefore has two primary functions - to present as a professional business letter but also to highlight the essential attributes a recruiter is looking for.
Your letter should present you as a professional person. To achieve this, it must look modern and business-like, which you can achieve by:
Ideally a cover letter should be around one page in length. If it is more than a page and a half, you’re probably saying too much; if it’s less than two thirds of a page, you are probably not answering all the questions the recruiter has.
Choose a business-style font such as Arial, Helvetica or Tahoma - avoid font styles like Century Gothic or Times New Roman which will make you look out-dated. Choose a font size of 11 points and line spacing of 1.2 to make your letter readable.
You can choose either left aligned of justified text alignment - just ensure the text has the same alignment throughout.
Your language should be friendly yet formal. Your expression must be clear and succinct throughout.
The next step is to ensure your letter has the right structure. The format you should use for your cover letter is:
- Your name, address, email address and mobile phone number should appear in the top left section of the letter
- The date of writing should appear one line space below the addressor section
- The Name, Position and Business name and address of the person your writing to, the addressee, should appear one line space below the dateline
- The Salutation - Dear first name - should appear three line spaces below the addressee
- The Reference line should appear a half line space or a full line space below the Salutation and half line space or a full line space above the first paragraph. The reference line should be in Bold, starting at the left margin with “Re:” and then two tab spaces in you should clearly define the purpose of the letter. For example:
Re: Application for Job advertisement 1101, Property Manager
All letters are written with a specific purpose in mind and the purpose of your cover letter is simple - to sell yourself as the perfect person for the advertised position.
The first paragraph starts this process by introducing yourself and explaining why you are interested in the job advertised. You should avoid phrases like “I am writing in application for…” and instead use phrases like, “I have been interested in your innovative approach to the real estate business for some time...”
The first paragraph must explain why you are interested in the company, its business mission, the job being advertised and then make a connection between the organisation and yourself.
The second paragraph must make clear that you can fill the role and do the job. If you have direct experience in a similar position this should be your lead in the second paragraph. If you don’t have direct experience, you should talk about any other work or life experience you have that equips you to fulfil this role.
The second paragraph of your cover letter should also state your academic achievements and any other relevant qualifications.
In modern cover letters, the third paragraph often takes the form of a statement which introduces a list of bullet points. These bullet points are in effect a short-hand answer to the points raised in the job advertisement. Recruiters may have to scan up to a hundred applications on screen, so you need to make it easy for them to conclude that you meet the primary criteria.
Your bullet points should be a summary of the skills and experience you have that are relevant to the role. It is more effective to have an odd number of bullet points and you should list no more than seven bullet points.
By this stage in the letter, the recruiter should be convinced that you have the skills, experience and qualifications necessary to fill the position. In the fourth paragraph, you should move on to give the recruiter reasons why you are one of the best applicants.
The fourth paragraph is often used by candidates to highlight how their attitudes - such as ambition, work ethic or adaptability - will be an asset to the employer’s business.
In this final paragraph you should thank the recruiter or employer for their consideration and invite them to contact you about the job.
You should print your name in bold and then sign above it in a blue pen.
Your final checklist
Before you send your cover letter to anyone, conduct the following check to ensure you have everything correct and complete:
- Read the letter aloud - this will help you find any awkward or convoluted sentences
- Mark the essential attributes required in the job ad - then ensure your letter has answered them
- Check the Addressor and Addressee sections of the letter
- Spell check and proof read your letter for errors
- When you’re 100% satisfied, and only when you’re 100% satisfied - send your letter.