Writing a convincing cover letter is often one of the trickiest parts of a job application. But communication skills are one of the most important skills for job seekers in the logistics and transportation industry to have, and an engaging cover letter is one of the best ways to show potential employers that you’ve got these skills in abundance.
Here’s our advice for getting your applications noticed:
Don’t just list how you meet the person specification…
…unless they specifically ask you to. Instead, think about grouping your skills and experience in chunks. For example, if there are a number of points which all relate to leadership such as good negotiation skills, team-building skills and experience managing a large staff, write a paragraph detailing how you meet these criteria.
Then group together any tech or IT skills you have and write another paragraph about this, or whatever other things are relevant to the role. Keep the paragraphs thematically linked rather than just moving from point to point as they are written in the job description. This will demonstrate that you understand the demands of the role as a whole and that you’ve thought seriously about what the job entails.
Doing it this way means that you can add it any extra impressive experience you’ve had that wasn’t mentioned on the job description or person spec. For example, if you’re an absolute whizz at writing bids you could include this in the paragraph about communication, even if it wasn’t mentioned specifically and link it back to the requirement for “excellent written communication skills”. Or, if your record on improving productivity really sets you apart use it as evidence to demonstrate how you’re able to “problem-solve”.
Don’t be afraid to be straightforward
It can be difficult to find the right tone of voice when writing a cover letter. Sometimes we can tie ourselves in knots trying to sound official and at the end of the day our meaning isn’t clear. Don’t be afraid to be straightforward and use introductory sentences like:
“My strengths are…”
“I can deliver…”
“I could make a strong contribution because…”
If you are struggling to write clearly, imagine how you would describe your experience and skills to a friendly colleague, then write it down exactly as you would talk about it. However, remember that there’s a difference between formal and complicated, and whilst you want the overall tone of the letter to be clear, you definitely don’t want it to sound too casual. Logistics and transport firms are known for being fairly conservative in terms of their branding so stay on the safe side and avoid slang and any jokes.
Emphasise your transferable skills
There are a number of skills that are relevant to many logistics roles – and employers will want to see these even if they aren’t mentioned in the job description. The hot skills for the logistics and transport industry are communication, commercial awareness, time management, numeracy and IT and problem solving skills so make sure you demonstrate you experience in these areas. (You can read more about them in our blog post here).
Explain why you are applying for the role
More and more logistics and transport companies are beginning to focus on their employer branding and how their employees reflect their particular company culture, especially the big names. By explaining why you are applying for the job you can demonstrate what it is about this company that appeals to you. Show that you really want this job, not just any job.
Keep it short and sweet
Hiring managers are always rushed for time, and often receive many more applications than they expect – and this is just as true in transport and logistics as in any other industry. For that reason it’s super important to keep your cover letter short. It should be no longer than one page of A4.
Remember: the goal of the cover letter is to convince someone to invite you to interview – not to go into massive detail about particular areas – that’s what the interview is for.
Understand national differences
Logistics jobs often involve working for multinational firms, or companies located outside your home country, so it’s important to be aware of different national conventions on cover letters. For example, in Scandinavia it’s common to focus on how the workplace would benefit from hiring you and emphasise collegiality and team-work. In contrast, cover letters in the UK are really an opportunity to boast about your achievements and employers will expect to see that you have a competitive edge.
Explain how what you did makes you right for the role
Ideally you should see your CV and cover letter as two sides of the same coin – they should complement each other to give a full picture of you as an applicant. It’s best to stick to the facts of your experience on your CV, but the cover letter is a good opportunity to explain why this experience makes you the right candidate. You can do this by making connections between the skills you have gained from your experience, or what you learned. For example you could write something like:
“Whilst working as a freight forwarder in Amsterdam I gained valuable experience in negotiating complex contracts. From this I developed my people skills and gained a good working knowledge of converting handling fees.”
“In my previous position as logistics manager I was responsible for managing a team of 25 staff. Through this I learned just how important it is to communicate clear objectives and goals and create a supportive working environment”.
Focus on what you can bring to the company
Hiring managers are looking to find someone who will help them to solve the problems they are facing, therefore by focusing on what you can bring to the organisation (rather than what you would gain from getting the job) can make an effective case for why they should hire you.
This becomes even more effective if you can show that you really understand what the primary objective of the role is and how this fits into the company’s business strategy as a whole. You should be able to get an idea about this from reading into the job description and seeing who the role reports to and what department it is in. If you’re in doubt about this then it’s worthwhile calling the HR department before to double check before you write your letter.
Keep the formatting consistent
Your CV and cover letter should work together to give a full picture and for that reason it’s important that they are visually cohesive. Unless you’re going in for a marketing role within a logistics company you probably won’t need to go all out and produce something stunning, but just make sure that your CV and cover letter match up in terms of font, font size and layout and have enough areas of blank space so that they aren’t overwhelming.
To make your cover letter stand out, consider using bullet points or sub headings. Most people choose just to write in paragraphs, so something that is formatted slightly differently can be an effective way to grab a hiring managers’ attention. Sub headings can work especially well if you have grouped your paragraphs into themes which you can then title. Think about things such as “A great team-player” “an intuitive problem solver” or “strong academic background”. You can choose to write a “title” for yourself to include at the top of the letter, something like “A highly motivated transport planner” or “A warehouse manager with an outstanding record for health and safety”.