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What mistakes do candidates often make on their cover letters?

  • Using previously tailored cover letters from other job applications
  • Replicating their CV in the cover letter
  • Not motivating their application with precise information that is relevant to the role
  • Writing very long cover letters that are not precise and tailored for the role
  • Writing short a cover letters that are generic and giving little information in relation to the role
  • Grammatical errors, lack of proof reading, layout, and proof reading.
  • Using a CV template for the cover letter

What makes a good cover letter?

  • Seek a call/discussion with the contact given to acquaint yourself with the role and any perspectives that is not obvious or given in the advert information
  • A relevant heading
  • Introduce yourself acknowledging you saw the advert/candidate pack/job description and give your elevator pitch/paragraph on why you are the right candidate for the role
  • Do not give unnecessary and long narratives
  • Provide a good summary of your experience, exposure, and qualifications in line with the givens for the position
  • Acknowledge the opportunity presented for you to apply and invite further engagement on the role

5 tips on job interviews.

  • Research on the organisation – purpose, vision, values, work, locations, and the organisational structure
  • Be clear about your motivation for the role (how you align with the organisation, what you bring to the table and less about your need for a new role).
  • Have clarity on how your previous experience links into the role. Remember that the panel has read your CV and not interested in you regurgitate that information again
  • Respond to questions with practical examples of what you have done in the past, how it links into what is being asked and theoretical understanding of what is being asked
  • Create a strong and balanced picture in your responses – strategic leadership, people leadership, stakeholder management, resourcefulness, and tenacity
  • If it is online, please practice with someone before the call, ensure lighting, sound background and your positioning is great before the interview. Have a second device on standby in case one fails you
Ottilia Dube
Ottilia Dube
Principal Consultant, Southern Africa at Oxford HR

Based in South Africa, Ottilia has over 20 years’ experience as a senior manager and consultant in human resources for both the non-profit and private sectors. She has been a senior manager for organisations as diverse as DFID, Oxfam, SOS Children’s Village and Action Aid and has worked in Southern African, African and International teams.

Ottilia brings a deep knowledge of the HR market of Southern Africa, as well as expertise in change management and leadership, HR policy and procedure development and implementation, executive recruitment, selection and placement including international relocations, compensation and benefit development and management, payroll and administration management and child protection and safe guarding.

Currently pursuing a DBA, Ottilia holds an MBA and is passionate about life, career and relationship coaching. Apart from being religious, Ottilia also spends time in creating floral decorations and gardening.