When you apply for a job in tax, and especially for your first job in tax, you need to ensure your application stands out.
Your resume, of course, should clearly highlight your skills, qualifications and achievements to date. However, a hiring manager may not even see your resume if your cover letter doesn’t first spark his or her interest.
Why you need a cover letter
An effective cover letter is a professional introduction to your resume. It explains, to the hiring manager, the relevance of your resume to the position you are applying for and the organisation you are applying to.
A clear, relevant cover letter helps you make a good first impression. It represents your best chance to win the attention of the hiring manager and to demonstrate that your credentials are better and more relevant to the organisation’s needs than those of other applicants.
Your cover letter should be a tailored communication that explains, specifically, how you can contribute to the organisation in the context of the requirements outlined in its job advertisement or position description.
As a rule, you’ll be better served sending a fewer number of customised cover letters than a larger number of generic letters that fail to address the specifics of the target position or organisation.
The elements of an effective cover letter
Your cover letter should:
- list the advertised position’s selection criteria, along with a clear explanation of how your skills and/or experience are the right ‘fit’ in relation to each criterion.
- repeat the main keywords and key phrases that appear in the job advertisement or position description – e.g. if the words ‘team player’ or ‘stakeholder management’ appear frequently in the position description, they should also be conspicuous in your cover letter.
- demonstrate your understanding of the advertised position and the organisation you are applying to.
- include your biggest career achievements to date – e.g. how have you contributed to, and added value to, previous employers? Alternatively, if you are applying for your first job in tax, what were the academic highlights from your time at university?
- be succinct and to the point – try to keep your cover letter to a single page or less.
- not repeat, word for word, the information in your resume – your cover letter should demonstrate your personality and your specific interest in the role you are applying for.