The importance of a killer cover letter

Cover Letters - getting you a job interview

Nothing screams “Me! Me! Hire me!” more than your cover letter.

A cover letter is used to direct the employer to your CV, or at least that’s what you would most likely find if you googled it. However, a cover letter is actually more like the red carpet where you’re posing for your potential employer, while your CV is like the clothes you’re wearing in the red carpet to make you shine – in other words, the cover letter is what sells you as an employee.

A cover letter will either be the body of your e-mail if you’re applying online, or an actual letter that will be posted with your CV.

 

A cover letter should ALWAYS be tailored to the job you’re applying for.

 

Sure you can use the same structure, but highlight different points according to what the position requests.

 

Before you start… research!

Research is the keyword for your cover letter. You should really research the place you’re applying to, virtually every practice will have a website nowadays. Find out where they are, their values, the team, the services, the premises, look at client reviews. Find out who you need to address your cover letter to (if you need to, call them!!!). Search for them in LinkedIn and facebook. Be a bit of a stalker (you don’t need to show them ALL of this!) to get insight into the position and the needs of your prospective employer so you can tailor your cover letter to the job.

 

How to structure a cover letter

Whether your cover letter is going to be read on a computer screen or gets printed to paper, the structure is similar – don’t underestimate your cover letter just because you’re sending an e-mail.

  • Salutation
    • Address the letter to the person responsible for hiring veterinary surgeons or the clinical director.
  • First paragraph
    • Short and to the point, state the position you’re applying for, where you’ve heard of it AND why you’re the best person to get it
    • The position is attractive, why? Tailor tailor tailor!
  • Second paragraph
    • Sell yourself! Considering the position, highlight what experience you have that fits the role and why you’re an asset to the employer
    • Also try to mention something about “soft skills” – skills like communication, client satisfaction, business views, if you feel it benefits you
    • Try to match together your specific skills to your employer’s needs – if they say there’s a high surgical caseload and you like surgery, mention this and that you’d like to get more experience, which is likely perceived as an asset for the employer
  • Closing paragraph
    • Mention again your intent and interest on the position, direct employer to your CV
    • Make sure to show availability for clarifications and provide a phone number and/or e-mail address for the employer to contact you back
    • Thank your employer for the time spent reading through your application

 

The DO’s

  • Address the cover letter to the right person. If this is not straightforward (for instance, no e-mail address or general e-mail address), call the practice and ask them who will be responsible for looking at applications – also make sure you get the SPELLING right!
  • Avoid a long cover letter. One A4 page should be plenty to showcase your skills.
  • Spell check! Spell check again!
  • Get someone else to spell check your cover letter!
  • Put yourself in the employer’s shoes – if you read your cover letter, would you want to hire yourself? How can the applicant benefit the business?
  • Tailor the application to each job offer and link your research to your skills and your plans

 

The DONT’s

  • Spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes are a big no no! You’ll come out as unprofessional and likely with poor English skills. Brings your credibility as a foreigner down! You might think that as a foreigner people might cut you some slack, but that’s not the case with cover letters – if you don’t communicate well by writing, they won’t expect you to be better with speaking!
  • Address your letter to “Whomever it may concern”. Got the wrong person? At least you’ve tried
  • Use the same letter for all applications without any personalization
  • Write a bland opening paragraph with no impact
  • Don’t talk about money on your cover letter. Don’t mention it. Leave it for later! Money seems to be sorta taboo…

An example of a tailored cover letter

Foreigners have a bit of a harder time getting jobs, it’s a bit like “sure, if you only you had more experience”, but no one hires you so you can actually get more experience. However, there are ways to work around this and a great cover letter is one of the first your prospective employer will see.

Picture this add that you totally want to apply for.

 

Sample job vacancy advertisement for a veterinary surgeon.

Sample job vacancy advertisement for a veterinary surgeon.

Also picture you’re a foreigner vet with some experience in your own country, but you’re yet to attend your registration appointment with the RCVS to be registered and have zero UK experience. The offer is too good for you to pass on (like, your aunt lives 5 minutes away from this practice and she told you she would rent you the room) so you want to apply even though you don’t have your RCVS membership. If you don’t have a date for your interview, I would say chances of being rejected are fairly high. If you, however, have an appointment date, you can try to make it work for you. This is an example of a reply to the previous ad.

 

Dear Ms. Jones,  

I’d like to express my interest in the vacancy for a full-time veterinary surgeon you have available at Vet UK (short and to the point). Your small animal practice attracted me as it provides the opportunity to develop my technical skills further and still engage in top quality client care. I have a keen interest in surgery and am looking for a job that will allow my skills in this area to grow. Your practice presents the perfect environment as I also value client interaction and creating meaningful connections with the clients. (why I want to work there and what I value)  

I graduated in Spain in 2013 and have since then worked in a local practice dealing with patients and clients in a very individual way (showcase your ability to communicate with owners). In this position I gained communication skills, as well as general surgical and medical skills. I am confident in basic surgery (neutering, lump removal, laparotomy), emergency surgery (gastric dilation-volvus, caesareans) and have some experience in orthopaedic surgery (fracture management, cruciate ligament repair). I have also performed basic ocular surgery (entropion, reconstruction, ablation). Even though I have a keen interest in surgery and am looking to develop my skills in the area, I have also dealt with medical cases and I’m confident dealing with first-opinion problems. I have also worked night rotas and dealt with emergencies. I have been responsible for client communication on my own cases and have received positive reviews from several of my clients, who specifically ask to see me when they come down to the practice. I lack experience in the UK clinical setting but I’m a quick learner and very adaptable, therefore I believe I would be a valuable asset to improve the services in your practice. (personal experience and what you can bring in for the employer)  

I’m currently looking into positions in the United Kingdom that would allow me to progress in my surgical career and even though my main residency is still in Spain, I have an appointment made with the RCVS in two weeks time to finish my registration and be able to start my career in the United Kingdom (this is your weakness and limitation – now you make it work for you and for the employer). I will therefore be available for a personal interview at that time. I’m proficient in English and would be happy to have a verbal discussion about this role, my skills and your needs at any time, which would also allow you to assess my linguist skills. I’m available for this conversation over phone (phone number) or skype, but would appreciate if we can arrange this in advance by e-mail so that I can guarantee my availability. You can contact me by e-mail on: (e-mail address).  

You can find my CV attached to this message to provide further information about my skills and qualifications, as well as contact details. If you prefer, I can send my application in a different format. I can be contacted most immediately by e-mail (provide e-mail) or phone (phone number) (direct employer to CV, provide contact details and show availability).  

I appreciate your time to read through my application.  

Yours sincerely,

Full name”