Many of my students ask me: is a cover letter really that important?
Some say it's irrelevant; I believe that if you want to stand out, then every document of your job application is your chance to grab someone's attention. A good cover letter attempts to determine the employer’s needs and then explains how your experience will help meet or exceed these needs and expectations.
Get creative, think out of the box, and make it personal so your personality comes through. Keep it short - don't bore your audience. Think about how you might turn negative language into positive opportunities.
The top 3 mistakes I see in cover letters
Mistake #1 Believing the email and the cover letter aren't that important.
The introductory email is a taste of who you are. Think of it as the cover letter but shorter and stating all the documents you have attached.
Here is an example of two opening lines in an email by one of my clients which landed them an interview:
I am an Architectural Designer from Brazil with two years of local experience in Australia. I bring a unique perspective to a team and my projects, merging my experience from Brazil with a deep appreciation for design differences in Australia.
I was immediately intrigued. I wanted to know more about what they meant about the deep appreciation and unique perspectives!
A good cover letter attempts to expand on this and determine what the employer’s needs are, then explains how your experience will help meet or exceed these needs and expectations. As Stephen Drew says: Don't be afraid to be bold! (Pardon the pun!)
I can see from the types of projects you're passionate about that my international experience and advanced software skills would fill the gap you're looking to fill.
Mistake #2 Addressing the cover letter incorrectly
It's better to address it to a person. Don't address it with: "To whom it may concern, Sir or Madame" If you don't know who to address it to, call to ask: Examples (when you need to call): "I'm calling in response to the job I saw on x, could you tell me who would be the best person to address my cover letter to?" "Who can I direct my job application to?" This initiative may even spark further conversation. They may tell you that you don't need a cover letter. So use the phone call as an opportunity to show you're keen.
Mistake #3 Sentences are too simple or don't have sentence length variations, and there are significant grammar mistakes.
Often cover letters can contain a recap of the CV, which can appear as short, boring sentences. To engage the reader, try to vary the length of your sentences. If sentence structure is something you need help with, see below for some examples.
No matter who is applying, grammatical errors will most likely be sent to the bottom of the pile.
Grammarly is a great tool for checking over cover letters and CV's.
👉 You'll find even more tips and The Ultimate Cover Letter Guide to help you write a standout opening paragraph by joining the free course Using English to Enhance Your Job Search on the Architecture Social.
For your cover letter to stand out, it's important to include a mix of simple, complex and compound sentence structures.
Simple sentence structure
First is your basic sentence: a standalone, independent clause with a subject and verb. Note that a simple sentence can contain two subjects or two verbs, but not two of each.
Example: I am an architectural graduate from Spain.
Complex sentence structure
A complex sentence combines an independent clause with one or more subordinate clauses. Complex sentences always use subordinating conjunctions to connect the clauses (e.g. while, as, for, since etc.)
While I'm interested in complex problem solving with REVIT, I'm also an eager hand sketcher. As I'm interested in complex problem solving, I'm dedicated to honing my skills with using automation in REVIT.
Compound sentence structure
A compound sentence combines two independent clauses using coordinating conjunction like (for, and, or, and so) or using a semicolon. It’s essentially two simple sentences joined together.
Example: I enjoy working on complex design tasks, and I also enjoy producing quick hand sketches.
Compound-complex sentence structure
Lastly, a compound-complex sentence has at least two independent clauses and at least one subordinate clause. Think of it as a compound sentence consisting of one or more complex sentences.
Example: While I prefer working on residential projects, I've always been interested in pursuing commercial projects, and using my software skills for larger-scale projects.
Cover Letters and Emails are an important aspect of the job application process. It's your opportunity to really stand out and make a difference. You'll find even more tips and The Ultimate Cover Letter Guide to help you write a standout opening paragraph if you Join the free course Using English to Enhance Your Job Search on the Architecture Social.