Let's start with a fact: Writing a cover letter is a pain. However, even if you don’t meet all requirements specified in the job description, a well-written cover letter can still get your foot in the door. If you do it right, it gives you a strong competitive advantage and boosts your chances of getting a job. This guide will help you write the best cover letter possible (with ease!) and set yourself apart from other candidates. What will you learn in the next 10 minutes:
What is a cover letter?
Why is the cover letter important? (and does anyone still read them?!)
How to structure your cover letter?
What to do when writing cover letter?
What not to do?
You might also be interested in reading:
Resume Checklist: Is your resume ready for the next job application?
So buckle you seat belt and let’s start!
WHAT IS A COVER LETTER?
A cover letter is a document you send along with your CV.
The main purpose of it is to introduce yourself to the potential employer and explain your suitability for the position you are applying for.
A well-crafted cover letter goes beyond the information included in your resume. It shows why you should be hired and sets you apart from other candidates.
Your cover letter is where you can show your passion for the position and the company, and highlight your most relevant qualifications, achievements and successes.
A good cover letter should do four main things:
let the employer know your reason for contacting them
connect your skills, interests, and academic background with the requirements from the job description
articulate why you're a good fit for the position through specific examples
fill in places or further explain aspects of your career that the resume cannot describe.
WHY IS THE COVER LETTER IMPORTANT?
As mentioned above, a cover letter can set you apart from other candidates – even if you don’t have everything the employer is looking for.
When you are applying for a job, you only have one shot to present yourself as the best candidate.
Why rely solely on cold facts from your resume when you can add more information, share a story about those facts and add colour to your application? All of that can be done in a single page cover letter.
Additionally, cover letters are the best evidence of your motivation.
Put yourself in employer’s shoes and imagine the following situation.
You have two resumes in front of you – Tom’s and Bob’s.
Tom and Bob are equal in terms of their experience and qualifications.
Tom saw the job description. He knew he met all of the requirements and he already had an appropriate version of his CV prepared. He did contemplate sending a cover letter. However, it would mean he would need to spend 45-60 minutes to write it. And he thought no one would read it anyway. So Tom’s final call was to submit the application without a cover letter, and just sending a generic CV.
On the contrary, Bob has put some extra effort into his application. He sat there for an hour, thinking about the job, the company and how he can add value to it. He has put his thoughts in five short paragraphs of text. Eventually, he ended up having a concise, but tailored and to the point cover letter that was submitted along with his resume.
Guess who was invited to the interview?
Exactly - Bob was!
Better luck next time, Tom! Even if a cover letter is not requested as part of your application, always send one.
Employers may look for individualized and thoughtfully written cover letters as one method of screening out applicants who are not sufficiently interested in their positions or who lack necessary basic skills.
Don’t fall in the trap like Tom did, assuming no one would read his cover letter.
Of course, that might be the case, too.
However, you never know who your resume will stumble upon and what their preferences are.
There are always two possible scenarios.
First – you send your cover letter and they don’t read it.
Second - you don’t send your cover letter and they expected you to do so.
In the first scenario, you can get the interview invite if your resume shows you have everything they are looking for. In the second one, unfortunately, it’s not as likely.
To be perfectly honest, there is a fact that might discourage you.
Many recruiters don’t read cover letters.
They have seen thousands of look-a-like cover letters with the same sentences, clichés and empty phrases, so eventually they gave up on them.
But you know who does read them – always, without an exception?
Hiring managers. At the end of the day, they are the ones you need to impress.
Moral of the story:
Write that cover letter. Put some effort into it. Don’t miss your chance to shine.
HOW TO STRUCTURE YOUR COVER LETTER?
Here is the most common structure of a cover letter.
Include your name and contact details in the heading.
If possible, apply the same formatting as you applied to your resume. (Matching layouts make you come across as detail-oriented and professional.)
Additionally, add the name of the company you are applying for and their address (a place where you will most probably work at). This part should always be left-aligned, like the rest of the letter. Include the date when you submitted your application.
It can seem silly, but this part sets the tone of your cover letter and can easily be a deal-breaker, so you need to do it right. Do not use To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir or Madam – they are obsolete, unnatural and way over-used. Some hiring managers stop reading a cover letter as soon as they see one of those two phrases, so avoid them by all means.
Try to address your letter to the hiring manager directly.
If no name is listed with the posting, research the name of the department director, recruiter, or other contact associated with the position.
LinkedIn is the best tool to help you with it. Simply enter the name of the company (e.g. RbyR) and the job title in the search box (e.g. Performance Director) and see what comes out.
If you can't find a name, start the letter with ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ or Dear XYZ Team.
3. Intro section
Grab the reader's interest with your opening paragraph.
In one or two sentences, tell them who you are, why they should hire you, and express your enthusiasm for the role.You can simply rephrase the personal profile overview from your resume to fit the context.
For example, you could say:
"As a performance manager with four years of experience in managing the team and exceeding targets each quarter, I was excited to see your advertisement for regional performance director."
It grabs attention more effectively than "I am writing to apply for the role of regional performance director, which was advertised on the XYZ job board." It will also set you apart from other candidates, as you will have an opening sentence that differs from 97.6% of other cover letters.