Your cover letter is your first introduction to the hiring manager. It’s a crucial part of your presentation and it warrants serious time and effort. It adds weight to your application so make sure it counts. This is a chance to separate yourself from other applicants. The aim of the letter is to encourage the recruiter to read on—to follow up by reading your CV, not just casting it aside.
So what is the cover letter?
- It is a marketing brochure. You are marketing yourself. Your cover letter demonstrates your professionalism, your personality and your communication skills. Keep in mind that this does not replace your CV and shouldn’t include the same information as your CV.
- It should answer the question, “Why should I read your CV and interview you?”
- Remember that job search is a sales process, and your cover letter is your advertisement that’s going to encourage the recruiter to look at your CV. It should first grab their attention, highlight a few of your most relevant accomplishments and skills in the body of the letter using bullet points, and briefly close with a promise to make contact. Make it interesting and easy for a recruiter to understand why he or she needs to call you for the job, and you’ll have a great cover letter.
So now let’s talk about what this letter should include.
One of the first rules in marketing is to know something about your audience. The bare minimum with your cover letter is to know the name of the person who will be reading it. Phone or email the company and get the details—including the correct spelling of their name and their correct title. If someone recommended that you contact the company, state that here.
Identify clearly which job you are applying for and where you heard about the vacancy. The organization may have advertised many positions so be clear. If the advertisement included a reference number, refer to that. Also include the date of the advertisement.
Describe how the specific skills developed during your education are relevant to the job. This can include reference to your university studies as well as your TEFL studies.
Outline why you are a good applicant. Explain what you can offer them. You might echo some of the phrases they have used in the advertisement, but be careful not to just repeat their words. Keep in mind that you are marketing your skills. Include examples to show yourself as a confident, engaging teacher who can build rapport with students.
Highlight any relevant work experience that you think makes you a perfect fit for the position. For example, if you know that they are looking for someone with experience teaching children, highlight your own experience in this area. If you are newly qualified, highlight the practical experience you gained during your training, and any other teaching or coaching experience you may have. Demonstrate your classroom management skills, and give specific examples of your teaching approach to illustrate how you could benefit the school’s students.
Fourth Paragraph (Optional)
If you decide to add a fourth paragraph you can use it to highlight some other aspects of your skills and experience which might not be directly related to TEFL but which involve transferable skills. It’s also a good time to indicate your enthusiasm for the job. For example you might mention your experience settling into other cultures.
Include details of where you are living and your availability for interview. Include a call for action. Let them know that you intend to follow up with a phone call. You could say something like, “I am very excited about this position and know that my skills and experience in a, b and c will advance the goals of your organisation (school). I look forward to discussing it with you and I look forward to speaking with you soon. The best way to reach me is by phone on 555-5555 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your time and consideration of my CV for this position.”
End the letter with “Sincerely” or “Yours sincerely”, then your name, and you’re finished.
Before you send your application check it and double check it. Make sure you’ve written it in an easy-to-read fond. Spell check it. Check your punctuation. And then ask a friend to look over it for you. (The spell check won’t pick up all types of errors, so you need a person to look at it.)
Remember, attention to detail is important. This is your first impression and you want to make it the best you can.
Common Cover Letter Issues
- Using a generic cover letter. Never, ever use a generic cover letter. Make sure your letter clearly targets the position you are applying for.
- Dense text and lots of long sentences. Make sure your letter is easy to read. Think about the layout, and white space. Keep in mind that it’s your first impression. The recruiter may be seeing hundreds of letters. Make it easy for them to skim read and get the main point. Use bullet points. They are easier to read than paragraphs. They also naturally draw the reader’s eye down the list. They are very easy to skim, take in and understand.
- Waffling and repeating information that is in your CV. Keep it concise. Make sure you get your point across quickly but remember to be polite, friendly and professional. Also, you want your personality to shine through so don’t write in an overly formal or old-fashioned style. Be careful if you are using a template—you want to show off your personality, not someone else’s. Your cover letter is going to stand out because you are using your unique vocabulary that you would use if you were talking to the reader.
- Not knowing who you are writing to. Find out the person’s name, and the correct spelling.
- Writing in such a generic way that it’s virtually meaningless. Avoid generic terms. It’s best to be as specific as possible. If you have taught children, state how many children, what ages, what level and for how long. If you have taught Business English, what methodology and resources.
- Sending your cover letter as an attachment. Never do this. When you apply for a job and send two attachments, chances are the recipient will only look at your CV. Your cover letter is too important for it to be ignored. If you are emailing, include the text of your cover letter as the body of the email.
- Mentioning why you left your previous job, explaining employment gaps, justifying lack of experience and job changes. Avoid these and keep the tone of the letter positive. If the recruiter sees anything on your CV that concerns them, they can bring this up at the interview.
A Few Extra Tips
- Keep it to one page.
- Use simple clear language and action words. Remove unnecessary words and fancy phrases.
- Type it rather than handwrite it, but sign your name.
- Make sure it looks business like. Don’t put frames around the page or use fancy fonts.
So now you know what you need to include in your CV and Cover Letter it’s time to prepare your draft job search materials. Then it’s time to research the market and identify specific jobs you wish to apply for. Remember to tailor your CV and Cover Letter to individual positions. Pay particular attention to names in the Cover Letter. There is nothing more embarrassing than realising that you’ve sent your job application to one school, but referred to it by another school’s name—except perhaps than using the wrong name for the person you’re writing to!
All the best with your job search.