Your cover letter is your introduction to a potential employer, and a foot in the door to that dream job in retail. So how do you want it to look? Do you go for unfocused, messy and hard to follow? Or do you want professional, clear and full of purpose? Yes, we thought so too. Best we leave you to finish reading this article then, hadn't we?
Before you start writing
Research the company and its sector. Most companies now have an elaborate website with a mission statement, quarterly reports, press releases and staff bios. Reading these pages, along with carefully going through the job description, will give you an idea of where the company wants to be headed and the kind of people they want to hire to get there.
Carefully think about what you can offer the company. In practical terms, this means understanding how your skills apply to the job. Mentioning past work achievements is great for this, because not only does it help communicate how your skills apply to the position but it also shows you have excelled in some facet of a previous job. And achievements aren't just awards. Retail is, of course, a very revenue-orientated industry. Did an idea of yours boost sales for the company in some way? Have you helped the company save money? That's something which will have any recruiter salivating.
This is a very straightforward paragraph. Keep it short, just two or three sentences long. You want to tell the recruiter:
- What position you are applying for — be specific so there's no doubt.
- How you heard about the position (if it's relevant, like through a mutual contact).
- Most importantly, why you are interested in the position. Be brief and specific. Sweeping statements dripping in cliches won't cut it.
I'm writing in response to your advert for a store manager. Having worked in this sector for several years with great success, I'm confident I can contribute to your company's projects and goals.
This paragraph is the meatiest. In essence, you want to write why you are qualified for the position, but you want to be clear and concise. Choose two or three points you want to get across. Focus on experiences and the qualities you have that came into play. Here is where you can mention achievements at work. In some cases you may have to break up the paragraph if it gets too long.
When writing this section, remember:
- Use specific examples in your career, as they go a long way in helping the recruiter understand, and remember, your abilities.
- Just use this as a place to repeat block passages of your CV. Your CV lays out your work experience; your cover letter explains how those experiences apply to the job at hand.
- Mention the job and the company. This shows the recruiter you are really thinking about what you can bring to the job.
- Oh, and try not to write too loftily. There's nothing worse than reading a letter that's chock full of false sentiments and big words. It doesn't make you look clever, it just makes you look a bit pretentious. Keep it real.
For the past eight years, I've been a huge asset to my employers by meeting revenue targets, staying on top of health and safety requirements and making sure the company keeps a high level of customer service. At ABC, where I worked for five years, my store increased sales every year. We were often described as the cleanest store in the area. At DEF, I focused on customer satisfaction, starting a feedback plan to track and improve our image in the mind of customers. Subsequently, we started a loyalty programme that was a great success. I can assure you that my experience, sector knowledge and track record to date make me a strong candidate for this role.
This is the wrap-up, but you still want to be sure you mention certain key things. In particular, you want to:
- Refer to the enclosed CV.
- Request an interview to further discuss your candidacy. Specify when you are available.
- And thank the recruiter for taking the time to consider you for the position.
I attach my CV with this letter and I'd love the opportunity to meet with you and discuss my candidacy further. I'm available for an interview after the 15th of next month. Thank you for taking the time to consider me for this position.
Check before you send
So now you've finished, but we wouldn't go sticking the kettle on yet. It's vital you read through it and check for mistakes in grammar and spelling. Microsoft invented spellchecker for a reason - so use it - but a human eye never hurts either. Find a wordy friend to read through it and pick up on things you might have missed. Make sure you have the company's correct address and you've spelt the person's name correctly as well.
Also, be sure you've included all the information the job description asks for in a cover letter. Some companies want you to include extra information, such as salary requirements and start date availability. That being said, there's no requirement to include personal information like your marital status or age. In most cases it's not relevant to your suitability for the role. Any requests for personal information should be stated and explained in the job description, such as the need for a clean driving licence, for example. There's no need for you to justify lifestyle choices such as why you want to work part-time.
You may be tempted to use the same cover letter for several jobs. It may save you time but is it really going to help you get the job? You should see a cover letter as an opportunity to convince the recruiter you're the right person for the job. If they're reading your cover letter, it means they're interested in you. Ask yourself what kind of introduction you want to make.
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