When it comes to searching for a job, a good CV is not enough. Because of today’s competition, your job application needs to be more persuasive, and a cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd. Most of the time, employers will ask you to send a cover letter to explain who you are, what you want and what you have to offer to the company.
To make things easier we have put together a list of 10 tips to help you write a brilliant cover letter.
1. State Your Intentions
It’s important to explain to recruiters why you are writing a cover letter and what’s the purpose of your application. While they might already be aware of what a cover letter is, some tend to be long, misleading and confusing, and employers get tired of them quickly. One of the main purposes of a cover letter is to make things easier, providing a short summary of who you are and what you have to offer.
How to do this: Dedicate the first and second paragraph of the cover letter to explain your interest in the job. Explain how you have came across the job advert and why you found it interesting. Then talk about yourself and what you are doing currently – e.g. working, studying, interning, etc. What you should be aiming for here is getting to know what the employer wants from you and then matching your skills with their requirements.
2. Add Some Keywords
Just like your CV, the cover letter should include enough keywords to make it as relevant to the job advert as possible. The use of keywords shows employers that you have understood what the role requires from you. It also helps them to quickly scan your cover letter and identify whether you are what they are looking for or not.
Keywords are important as far as it concerns beating the ATS as well because it helps employers to minimise the number of candidates applying for a job and only a handful of job applications eventually find their way to employers. This means that the more targeted your cover letter is the more chances you have to get hired.
How to do this: Choose the most important keywords from the job description that refer to the skills employers ask for or to certain acronyms that are frequently used within the industry/profession. Make sure that you put them in strategic places or scatter them all over your cover letter and back them up with convincing examples when you need to justify your skills. Talking about your achievements is another great way to show your contribution and success in your previous jobs.
3. Don’t Copy Your CV
Don’t make the mistake of repeating yourself in the cover letter. Even though your cover letter needs to be short and to the point, it should also try to explain what you have written on your CV – not state the obvious. One of the main reasons why you use it is to give additional information that can be found on your CV. Essentially, the cover letter gives you the freedom to use full sentences and expand on the bullet points to justify why you are the perfect fit for the company.
How to do this: Avoid using the same phrases you used on your CV. Instead, choose two or three skills that are regarded as essential to the employer and explain how you meet these. Alternatively, you can talk about what you have done in your last job expanding on the job duties. A good idea is to talk about your achievements, a project that you completed successfully or were in charge of.
4. Make Use of Numbers
Numbers make all the difference. Statements that include numbers are very powerful. Why? Well, ‘I wrote 80 articles in a month’s period’ sounds more impressive than ‘I wrote articles’. This is because they provide some sort of justification or factual evidence of what you have done in the past. It tells employers what you are capable of and how you can help the company achieve its goals.
How to do this: You have to think about what employers consider as important in your profession or field. How do they measure success? Is it by how many products you sold or how many deadlines you managed to meet in time? If you want to work in sales let’s say, employers will want you to be quick and goal-driven since success is often measured by how many deals you close either per day, week or month.
Using percentages works best when talking about money. A good example is this: ‘I increased sales by a million which was a 25 percent increase from last year.’ Using numbers can show how much money you saved or how many new accounts you brought in. These need to explain in what way you helped to improve a situation and how you helped the company grow.
5. Think of What You Can Do for the Employer
Saying what the employer can do for you is not as effective as telling them what you can do for them. When you are working on your cover letter, try not to make it all about yourself. Instead, focus on the reason why the company should hire you by matching your skills and knowledge with the duties of the jobs as well as your career goals with theirs.
How to do this: First, you will need to research the employer and personalise your cover letter to the company you are targeting. You need to justify the reason you want to work for that particular company. You can mention a specific department, or a project that the company is involved in, or an acquisition a company has made. This shows that you have done your homework and that you are genuinely interested in the job. Also, make sure to include the hiring manager’s name using the person’s first and last name including a ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms.’ and avoid the generic ‘To Whom it May Concern’ or ‘Dear Sir or Madam’.
6. Focus on Your Skills and Experience
Career experts say that if you want to make a good impression as a jobseeker you need to come up with ways to promote yourself and ‘sell your skills’ in the best light possible. Since employers will have very little time to review your application, you will need to choose carefully what to include in your cover letter. You can do so by crafting a section within the letter that explains what you can deliver in this role.
How to do this: The best way to do this is to craft a section within the letter that explains what you can bring to the role. First, you need to read the job description carefully and choose the most important skills the employer needs and expand on that. If you can’t think of anything, look at your CV and identify what abilities you have on there and which ones are the most appropriate to use as your key strengths. Make sure that you don’t send your cover letter right away, and instead dedicate time proofreading the text in advance.
7. Show Your Creativity
If you consider yourself a creative individual this is the right time to show it. A good story, a slogan, a testimonial, a headline or a mission statement can be far more interesting and engaging as opposed to a dull piece of text that feels forced. Employers are looking for candidates who can make a difference, and the best way to do this is to stand out from the competition.
This can work pretty well when you are applying for a position in a creative industry e.g. media, marketing or the arts, but if it is done right, it can work effectively for any industry.
How to do this: Don’t start writing your cover letter unless you have a clear idea why you are doing it. Having a clear goal in mind can help you be specific and stay focused on the topic, which is essential to get the attention of recruiters. However, no matter how funny you think your humour is, there is always the danger of overdoing it. Since this is way too risky when trying to make a good impression, it’s wise to keep your story short and sweet. If you want to give it a shot, here are a few good cover letter examples you can check out to see what’s considered to be appropriate or not…and some funny ones.
8. Stay Positive
This might sound cliché, but remaining confident throughout your job search is an essential predictor of success. Even when you don’t think you meet all of the job requirements, you can still give it a try, without apologising for the skills or qualifications you don’t have. Don’t forget that having a positive attitude plays a central role and can help to convince even the most difficult recruiter.
How to do this: Don’t include any negative information and avoid discussing topics relating to conflicts with previous employers, pending litigation suits or including sarcastic remarks on your cover letter. Just like you would do for your CV, use positive language, strong action words and information that employers want to know.
9. Be Concise
Have you ever heard that less is more? Well, this is one of the best tips when it comes to writing a cover letter and it quality should always be over quantity. The length of your cover letter is not as important as the content, and what you choose to write about matters more than how you present the information. Your cover letter should be short and concise so that employers can read through it in seconds.
How to do this: Choose what you want to say carefully and avoid filler words that provide no value. Before you send your cover letter, prepare some good drafts and experiment a bit with the statements you want to use to back up your skills.
10. Say Thank You
When contacting employers you want to be as professional as possible. Getting on their good side and staying memorable requires some politeness and the cover letter should be able to express that. Saying thank you is probably the best and easiest way to show your gratitude and appreciation for the time they have taken to review your application.
How to do this: Apart from thanking them, remind employers that they can check out your CV attached in the email and leave your contact details.Remember to show your excitement and enthusiasm about working with them by letting them know that you look forward to hearing from them.
Points to Remember
When writing your cover letter there are a few tips you need to keep in your mind:
- Sell yourself as a brand: come up with creative ways to promote yourself and skills e.g. storytelling
- Write the letter in an informative or conservational manner: you want to be interesting and engaging so try your best to keep the attention of the reader
- Tailor your cover letter to each company and position: this should make your job application more relevant to the role
Creating a cover letter might take some time but it will definitely worth it. If you are serious about landing a job, you will need to prepare a few copies to send individually to employers you want to work for!
Have you ever created a cover letter? Did you find it difficult? Let us know in the comments section below…