Rather than thinking of it as a hurdle standing between you and our dream job, think of it as another opportunity to demonstrate how you’re the best choice for the position.
We’re here to tell you exactly how you can write a unique and memorable cover letter that makes a positive impression, and increases your chances of beating the other candidates. Ready to find out how? Read on!
Know why you're writing it
Your cover letter should never become a list of places you’ve worked and things you’ve done, your CV should cover this. Instead, think of your cover letter as a way of briefly giving someone an overview of your qualities, and making a convincing case for your suitability for this specific role.
It should highlight things that you couldn’t include in your CV or expand on things that are. While sticking closely to the requirements of the role, talk about your passions, interests, who you are, and what things you’ve done that make you a great fit with the organisation and the role.
Things that need to be included:
1. Correct contact details
Ever received post addressed to “the householder”? Doesn’t scream “open me”, does it? The same is true for cover letters. Starting your letter with “Dear Sir or Madam” has far less impact than addressing the hiring manager by their name.
Examine the job listing carefully to see if the hiring manager’s name is mentioned. If not, look on the website or company LinkedIn page to find out the name of the hiring or human resources manager.
If, despite all your best efforts you can’t find out the name of your target, use a generic greeting. Research by the Balance found that 40% of employers preferred the greeting “Dear Hiring Manager”, beating the second preference “To Whom It May Concern”, preferred by 27%.
2. An intriguing hook
You need to find a balance between the extremes of being too formal and too casual. Consider the tone of the company you’re applying to based on their online presence and industry. Something very formal like “Please find enclosed my Curriculum Vitae” might not be received well by a hip marketing firm but could be appropriate for a prestigious law firm, for example.
Try to inject personality and show excitement from the off. Weave a story of who you are, what position you’re applying for and why your talents are perfectly matched to the role.
3. Explain why you're an excellent match
Think not in terms of “here’s why I want to work for you”. Think instead of why they should want you to work for them. Your cover letter should sell your unique talents, skills, and passions. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Highlight major accomplishments that you can relate to the role and company. For example, if you want to work for a food marketing company, talk about your personal cooking escapades.
- Pay attention to keywords. Many bigger companies employ the help of keyword scanning software to help them sort the masses of applications they receive. Identify the skills required in the job description and be sure to mention them often in your cover letter.
- Use personal connections. If you were referred by someone already working for the company, use this. Don’t just mention their name, describe why they thought you’d be a good fit.
Remember, it’s not about regurgitating your CV, it’s about highlighting specific evidenced reasons and accomplishments that persuade the reader that you’re the perfect catch. This is no time for modesty.
4. Finish in style
After all this hard work it can be tempting to finish off with something like “I look forward to hearing from you!” But this doesn’t add anything new. Instead, try to close things by briefly reiterating your enthusiasm and passion in a line or two, before asking for an interview in a phrase like “I’m excited to meet with you”.
A few dos and don'ts
- Focus on what you can do for them and why they need you.
- Don’t be overly formal, but remain professional.
- Consider having someone read your letter. Those who work in recruitment, HR, or management are ideal, but any fresh perspective is helpful.
- Don’t reuse cover letters, customise each one to each job. Although you can use a general template, each cover letter should be tailored to your specific application.
- Read your cover letter several times, and at least once out loud so you can check to make sure the writing flows well and is easy to read.