Writing cover letters can seem daunting. You probably ask yourself questions like “What should I write? How long should it be? How do I make it unique?” In order to give you the best chances of landing your dream job, we’ve answered these questions and outlined more best practices below.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter (sometimes called motivational letter or letter of motivation) is an overview of your CV (or resume in the US) written in the form of a letter. As opposed to a CV that is chronologically and bullet point-oriented, a cover letter gives you the opportunity to clarify your skills from a more personal perspective in a manner that also relates to the specific job you’re applying for. While there is no official format, there are a few details to keep in mind that increase your chances of standing out and getting hired.
How to write a cover letter
Here are the top tips and tricks to ensure that you write a noteworthy cover letter that recruiters are sure to notice.
1. Use the correct format
As mentioned above, there is no one fixed way to write a cover letter. However, there are a few points that are more or less standardised:
- Add your contact information at the top
- Note the specific job and company you’re applying for at the top
- Keep it to one page
- Use short, action-driven paragraphs
- Include a specific call to action
- Add your signature and the date at the end
While you can use templates to get you started, it’s highly recommended to make your cover letter as unique as possible. Adhering to the list above helps this, but it should also be updated within the content itself to reflect each specific job application.
Furthermore, cover letters are often broken down into short paragraphs, usually 3 or so. One example might look like this:
Paragraph 1: introduce yourself and your skills overall
Paragraph 2: state how you specifically support a particular department related to your job
Paragraph 3: highlight how you would support the company’s mission and goals
However you set up your paragraphs, just make sure it all fits on one page.
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2. Research the company
Your best bet to personalise your cover letter is to understand the particular company at hand. In addition to carefully reviewing the job description, take time to also research the company itself. How you go about this depends on the industry and job type.
To give one example, let’s say you’re applying to be a Content Manager at a marketing agency. Here it would be good to also understand which clients they’ve had in the past and clarify how you support them with these sorts of projects. If you have a supervisor such as the Head of Marketing, you might also check their LinkedIn profile to better understand their approach to content marketing, and tailor your cover letter accordingly.
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3. Explain how you solve their problems
All companies need to hire someone new to address a specific problem. For example, maybe they’re scaling the work done by a specific department or maybe they’re starting a new department. Whatever the case may be, you should write specifically how you can support this.
We can take the same example of a Content Manager. You notice within the job description that you’ll be supporting the Head of Marketing by managing content production. Your research has also shown that they don’t employ any other Content Managers at present. So, it would be good to highlight that you have worked in similar supporting roles (or are open to taking on this type of role), but also that you have initiative to bring in your ideas to improve departmental processes as well.
To clarify how points 2 and 3 would work in a cover letter per paragraph, this might look like:
Paragraph 1: write about your background and previous content marketing experience.
Paragraph 2: write about how you have the specific skills required to support the Head of Marketing.
Paragraph 3: write about how you would enable the agency to increase and/or improve the quality of their content production for clients with your support.
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4. Tell your story and address the recruiter directly
The goal with all cover letters is to emphasise your uniqueness and story, so it should never be a boring, cookie-cutter template. Start your letter with Dear Mr/Mrs Recruiter Name and write your letter in a manner that conveys your personality.
Here is a method to ensure this happens:
- Outline your cover letter with the specific paragraph breakdown.
- Tell a friend or colleague in your words what you’d like to say per paragraph. As you speak, have them write down bullet points in your layout.
- Write your cover letter according to these bullet points.
- Before you submit the cover letter, ask yourself “Is this in my own words? Does it sound like me? Have I thoroughly explained how I fit the company job description?”
When the notes taken reflect your specific way of speaking, your personality will come through much stronger in written form. In addition, you should always tweak it a bit in the end to make sure you’ve thoroughly covered everything for the job description.
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5. End with a call to action
The final sentence before your signature should be your call to action. This might look like: “Could you please let me know when we can schedule an interview?” or “I am available for an interview at your convenience”. This shows that you’re proactively ready to move forward with an interview and the rest of the hiring process.
6. Proofread your cover letter
Always proofread. Because recruiters and hiring managers have mere seconds to review your CV and cover letter and often look through hundreds at one time, a mistake can be the single reason they don’t move forward with you. Before you submit both documents, it’s a good idea to have at least two other people proofread your documents. Through their proofreading, ask if they have ideas for improvements that you can incorporate.
We wish you all the best in your cover letter writing! You got this!