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A great a CV can be masked by a badly written covering letter, which immediately taints the recruiter’s impression of you as a candidate when applying for a nursing job. Here’s how to write a great cover letter that is a true reflection of you.
9th September 2011
Your covering letter is the introduction to your application, and you want to grab the reader’s attention with accurate statements, concise writing and good grammar. Simply attaching a note that states how much you want the job and that your CV is enclosed won’t entice the recruitment officer in spending much time on your CV.
The whole purpose of a covering letter is to establish an authenticity to your application, to give a summary of why you’re suitable for this particular nursing job and to get the recruiter to spend more than 10 seconds skim reading your CV. A good covering letter takes time to write, but often it gets left as an afterthought. Try to remember to draft your cover letter as soon as you have completed your CV and personal statement, because you will be in the ideal position to summarise your skills and experience. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a cover letter is just a footnote of the application, it’s actually one of the key elements.
You can create a winning cover letter by follow these three simple steps:
First of all, draft your ideas
Don’t just dive straight into writing your cover letter in full, it’s a much better idea to get all your ideas down first and then decide how you want to present the information. Take another look at the person specification for the nursing job and match up your expertise, qualifications and skills with those required. You should address every requirement given in the person specification, but in a concise and accurate way. Don’t ever embellish your experience, because it will be obvious if you get through to interview and they ask you to go into detail about statements made on your application.
Secondly, organise your ideas in a maximum of 3 paragraphs
It’s not compulsory to use everything you’ve written down in step 1, in fact you probably shouldn’t because your cover letter will be too long to be effective. Think about the key nursing skills and experience, which the ideal candidate needs to get this nursing job, and prioritise as many of them as you have for mention in your cover letter.
The perfect cover letter should deliver a great introduction to your nursing competencies and skillset but shouldn’t be longer than 3 paragraphs, otherwise it could turn into a duplication of your personal statement. It is essential that you break it down into paragraphs, because it's much less discouraging for the recruiter to see a well laid out letter with white space and paragraph breaks than a long, dense page of writing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t include every single thing you have written down from step 1, that’s what the rest of your application is for, so don’t be afraid to be ruthless with the information you include in your cover letter. Think of it as selecting only the best ingredients.
The key balance you’re aiming for is to give enough detail to ensure the recruiter spends time reading your CV and application, but short enough that they don’t end up reading the same information twice and run out of time to consider you as a serious candidate. If you stick to the points below when you’re organising what you want to say, you’ll have a great cover letter at the end. Remember to include:
1. That you’re a qualified and NMC registered nurse! Seems obvious, but this as an opening line is an immediate attention grabber, because it automatically makes you eligible to apply for that nursing job.
2. The number of years you have been qualified and your most recent nursing employment. If there are key competencies required in the person specification that you have gained in your current nursing job, mention them here.
3. Your previous nursing position / nursing course (if you have only recently graduated), and how your skills achieved and experience gained are perfect for this nursing job.
4. Why you think you would fit into this role and the personal qualities you would bring. Use everything you collated in step 1 to decide which qualities are the most relevant to the role.
5. Whether you are or are not willing to relocate. It’s pretty obvious that if you are applying for a job 500 miles away from where you live and are not willing to relocate, it’s going to be tough to employ you against someone who is already local and just as qualified as you are. So, be sure to state whether you are willing to relocate if it’s relevant to the job.
Thirdly, check everything and then read it over again
You can use a certain tone in a cover letter that’s a little less formal than your CV if you choose to. While your CV is entirely formal and there to serve a purpose, you can allow your personality and writing style to show in your cover letter. After all, nurses are not robots, and they aren’t looking to hire a robot. Be careful it doesn’t become too informal, you should remember you are talking to a potential employer, but you can allow your writing style to flow and be more relaxed than the way you’ve written your CV. Don’t try to use words that don’t fit for the sake of sounding formal, and equally don’t use language or slang that you would only use to your friends. Be appropriate but informative.
Once you’re happy you’ve proof read your cover letter to death and there are no errors, spelling mistakes or grammatical malfunctions, you can add the bits and pieces that make it into a letter. First of all, the name and address of the person receiving the application, and their department and title. At the end of your covering letter underneath your signature, you should always include a list of enclosures. This is the recruiter’s way of checking they have received all of the information you have sent.
And that’s all there is to it. So by putting as much time into your cover letter as your CV you will have the perfect partnership to get your application noticed, and get you through to interview. Good Luck!
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