Dear Working Mother,

For many women who are also mothers, changing career aspirations and priorities can often also mean changing jobs… sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity.

Perhaps you’re returning to the workforce after taking some time out from your career to raise a family… or you want to change careers to something more family friendly but you’re not sure how to go about it… maybe you want to be in a position to negotiate a flexible work schedule, a four day week or a work from home option.

Whatever your situation, finding the right job can be a challenge… so it’s really important that you give yourself the best possible chance of success at the early stages of the job search process and grab an employer’s attention quickly.

As a past owner of a CV writing company, and also from being in the position of hiring manager in the past, I’m constantly amazed how many great candidates let themselves down when it comes to writing a cover letter for the job application.

A cover letter is a great opportunity to make yourself stand out, to prove your worth to a company, to reveal  your passion and excitement about the role you are applying for and urge the prospective employer to make that call to set up an interview. Yet, despite its importance, many people still send in CVs without them. These half-dressed job applications send the message that you are not very interested in the job.

To help you grab an employer’s attention and get your CV noticed, here are five of my tips for writing a great cover letter:

  1. Keep your cover letter concise and under a page long. The perfect cover letter is about three to four paragraphs in length, with each paragraph three or four sentences long. Don’t make the mistake of writing one long, muddled paragraph. Get to the point right away and make sure your ideas are easy to follow.
  1. Address the letter to the person doing the hiring. Where possible, it’s very effective to include the name of the person, his/her specific title, the company name and complete address. It’s not difficult to find out this information and it will make your cover letter much more personal and show that you’ve done your research.
  1. Make sure your letter includes all the important elements…opening, body and close. The opening is where you make your introduction and grab the employer’s attention. In the body of the letter you go on to explain why you are suitable for the job and then you close the letter by indicating that you are looking forward to hearing from the employer and your availability for interview.
  2. Use bullet points to emphasize key points. Bullets are great for emphasizing key points. Just like in your CV, they grab attention immediately in the cover letter as well, and break up space. Use bullet points to highlight achievements, skills or key experience that make you a great candidate for the job. Three is the magic number.
  1. Use powerful action words. Strong action work in your cover letter just as well as they do in your CV. Start off each phrase in your cover letter with a word like “developed,” “skilled” and “achieved.” Remember, the more powerful your cover letter, the more likely the employer will look at your CV to learn even more about your qualifications.

Finding the right new job might not be easy, but you can help yourself by focusing on your application – create a strong, effective CV (check out some of our tips here), and never underestimate the value of a great cover letter.

Best of luck with your job search.

Sincerely,

Elaine Lawless

The Working Mother

P.S. If you have any tips or advice you’d like to share on getting a great new job, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.