Originally published July 28, 2015.
One last thing left to do before you send off your application – but you just don’t know how to even start with your cover letter? Writing – deleting – rewriting over and over and over again? Don’t worry we’ve all been there and this guide will help you write the type of killer cover letter, that will really get employers keen.
- Keep it short
- Don't restate your CV
- Never address a general audience
- Make the most out of prime real estate
- Be specific and give examples
- Define your style
1. Keep it Short
This is not the time to wax poetic about your “love of cuisine” or “passion for fashion.” Less is more in this particular arena, so keep it to a maximum of three paragraphs; that is, no more than half a page. Make sure you will grab the reader’s attention – show curiosity, interest in the field and, most of all, personality; this can come in the form of interesting, specific historical facts or a concise explanation of exactly why the professional area or company in question has piqued your interest.
2. Don’t Restate Your CV
Cover letters are not paragraph-form CVs; this is especially pertinent when you consider that your letter will be directly attached to your resume, either in hard copy or electronically. As such, use these three paragraphs to make yourself stand out. Don’t use phrases like “My name is ___ and I’m applying for ___,” do mention the name of the company in question, and work hard to convince your audience of your sincere interest in filling a role in their team.
Give the hiring manager an intriguing glimpse of your background story, but do not list your personal strengths; instead, explain exactly what you can do for the company. But beware, avoid sounding egotistical by steering clear of pompous claims such as “I am the best ___ for the job.”
3. Never Address a General Audience
Generic salutations sound unprofessional and lazy. If you can’t be bothered to find the hiring manager’s name, you most likely are not suited to the responsibilities of the position; at least, that’s what the company will believe. Don’t let negligence rule you out. If you absolutely can’t find out who you should be addressing, address nobody, and jump right into the letter’s introduction.
4. Don’t Forget Spelling and Grammar
One spelling or grammar mistake, and you’re out. Any piece of copy you send to a potential employer – hard or electronic – must be carefully and methodically proofread. Remember: one might even call a cover letter a disguised writing evaluation!
5. Get Off to a Punchy Start
The first line is make or break. Don’t introduce everything about you and then mention why you’re even interested. Whether it’s a quote, a novel insight into the field or your key motivation – the options are endless and uniqueness is key. But avoid using “Since a young age, I was interested in… ” – we all know that’s probably not true.
6. Be Specific
Like with your CV – make sure you cut to the chase. Don’t be vague but give some context, numbers and figures. What did you do? How many people did you reach? How many customers did you get on board? Of course, make sure your examples are relevant to the company now – otherwise it’ll seem like you’re bragging. A fine balance to strike!
7. Pick Your Style
Your cover letter is likely to sound very different depending on whether you’re applying to a start-up, established consultancy or public-sector office. Make sure you know your audience and make your cover letter show that you do! The cover letter is your chance to show your future employer that you’re the right fit.
If it’s easy to tell that you’re just copy-pasting and replacing the company name, you won’t make a lasting impression. Search their website, photos and interviews to get an idea of how they communicate with the outside world. You and they are both likely to want to work with people that “speak the same language”. Nonetheless, don’t forget to stay yourself, and adequately professional of course!
And now: Stop procrastinating by looking for advice – and GO make it happen!