Updated: Jun 21, 2021
Recruiters typically spend just a few seconds on each CV, so a compelling cover letter really can make all the difference to getting an interview. Don't stress: this ‘How To’ and free Word template guides you step-by-step through writing the perfect cover letter after a career break
Written by Dr Emma Waltham | Maternity Returners Expert
It’s tempting to think a cover letter is pointless when you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into crafting an application form or CV, but a job application should always include a cover letter. It’s especially useful when you’ve taken a career break to look after children and are now returning to work. A cover letter gives you a great opportunity to be up front about the work gap and position it in the right way.
Recruiters typically spend only a few seconds scanning CVs before moving on to the next, and a career break letter can make or break getting your application noticed. Don’t miss a chance to stand out. Get yourself shortlisted with these cover letter tips.
"A cover letter gives you a great opportunity to be up front about the work gap and position it in the right way."
What’s a Cover Letter For?
While the CV showcases your skills and experience, you can use the cover letter to convince them why you think you’re the right match for their role and organisation. The letter needs to pull out the key points from your CV or application form that make it clear why you should be someone they take to the next stage. A good cover letter gives them the recruiter an insight into your personality too.
Even if you’re filling in an application form rather than sending a CV, the wording you’d put in a cover letter can go in the ‘further information’ box.
“Pull out the key points from your CV or application form that make it clear why you should be someone they take to the next stage.”
Cover Letter Format and Style
Writing a cover letter can be intimidating, so I’ve put together a free Career Break Cover Letter Template to make it easy. As well as showing you how to format the letter, there are examples of wording to help you along. Download the template and use it alongside the following steps.
First, be concise and professional. The cover letter should be a maximum of one page of A4 in a clear font, point size 10, 11 or 12. Don’t include any images and avoid being too chatty or using slang. Do let your personality shine through though. Now for the meaty bit.
“Do let your personality shine through”
Step 1 - Position Yourself
The first paragraph should say which role you’re applying for and how you heard about it. Then use the next paragraph to highlight the relevant experience and skills you have for this particular role. You'll have included these in your CV, but this is an opportunity to point them out and reinforce why you’re such a good match for the position.
Make sure you refer to what you’ve achieved in the past using these capabilities, giving evidence for your accomplishments, rather than slipping into just saying something meaningless like ‘I have excellent organisation and communication skills’.
Step 2 - Why You Want to Join
In the next paragraph highlight what it is about their organisation that is a great fit for you. What will you bring to their organisation that they have said they need?
Then, tell them what attracts you to the role. What is it about the job that has got you excited?
Step 3 – Your Career Break
Now is a good time to position your career break. You don’t need to feel embarrassed about it, or to apologise for it. There isn’t anything you need to excuse. Remember, lots of people take time out of work for many good reasons. You are not unusual. Just say you took a break, how long it was for and give a succinct reason, like ‘to take care of my children’. You should then say why this particular job opportunity is a great return-to-work role for you.
Step 4 – Call to Action
The last paragraph thanks them for considering your application. Say how delighted you would be to be to discuss the opportunity further at interview.
“You don’t need to feel embarrassed about your career break, or to apologise for it. There isn’t anything you need to excuse“
Step 5 – Review, Review, Review
When you’ve finished, give it a good read through and edit it until you're happy that it’s professional, clear and to the point. Run it through the grammar and spellchecker. Ask a friend to read it too as it’s always useful to have a second eye.
Tailor every cover letter to each application. You don’t need to rewrite it completely every time, but make sure you’ve done your research on the company so you can make it relevant.
To Wrap Up
A cover letter is so important when it comes to increasing your chances of being shortlisted for interview. It can be intimidating to write, but follow these few steps and you’ll soon have a cover letter that will give you the best chance of getting to the next stage of the application process. The free Career Break Cover Letter Template gives you examples of wording and is a formatted Word file that you can use to add in your own text, to make it even easier.