Almost every application will require submitting a resume, but many will still require you to provide a cover letter.
This is the perfect opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. In this article you’ll learn the fundamentals of building an awesome cover letter. As well as some extra mistakes to avoid, and tips to make the process of writing yours easier than ever before.
1. Break It Into Sections
Just like your resume is broken down into sections, you always want to break your cover letter into sections. Each section should focus on one key theme and idea. Structuring your cover letter this way will make it easier to write, and easier for the reader to understand. It’s a double win! For example, the letter could start off with two paragraphs qualifying your skills and experience, and another two paragraphs could discuss why you believe you’re a great fit for the company, and the role.
2. Keep It Simple
The enemy of the the cover letter is complexity. You want to avoid rambling, and you want to avoid saying too much. It needs to strike a good balance between addressing any key criteria, and positioning you as the key candidate for the job, without rambling on. I also suggest keeping the language you use as simple and plain as possible. By that I mean, don’t try to show off your vocabulary, and don’t try to sound to “corporatey.” Say what you have to say clearly, and succinctly.
3. Cut Any Filler
No employer, hiring manager, or recruiter wants to read 600 words of generic, cliched, run-of-the-mill cover letter writing. That doesn’t mean that your cover letter needs to be a work of art, it just means that you should touch on all of the major points in the clearest way possible, and stop at that. To give you a guideline, there’s no reason why a cover letter should be any longer than a single page. If you’re submitting both your resume and your cover letter, then a single paged cover letter will do the trick.
4. Show Enthusiasm
It’s critical to show enthusiasm at all stages of the application process. From the cover letter, to the phone interview, to the face to face interview (and beyond), enthusiasm is by far one of the easiest ways to set yourself apart from the competition. What do you show enthusiasm for? Show excitement and energy about the role you’re going for, as well as the company the role is with. I’d suggest highlighting at least two things you know and admire about the company, such as how it aligns with your values in a particular area. You’ll need to do some preparation and research about the company to maximise this technique.
5. Make It Persuasive
As a copywriter and digital content marketer – using words to be persuasive is what I do for a living. And one of the easiest and most powerful ways to be persuasive, is to be specific. Think about it, what’s more impressive: saying you can bench some “heavy weights,” or saying that you can bench “100kg.” The 100kg is more persuasive, because it’s more believable. And it’s more believable because it’s specific and tangible. Here’s what this means for you. Be specific when it comes to your skills and the value you can offer the company. Be specific about any achievements of “big-wins” you contributed to in previous roles. This is key evidence that builds the case for you getting the job!
6. Showcase Your Achievements Without Bragging
If you have any key achievements of “big wins” that you contributed to in a previous job, then you definitely want to touch on this in your resume. The more recent the win the better, and the more relevant the win is to the job you’re going for the better. It’s important never to brag about your achievements, but instead state them humbly and give context around them. For example, touch on how the win was the result of collaboration with your team members who gave you great advice, and resources along the way. In a nutshell, you want to acknowledge how you contributed to the win in the wider context of your colleagues additional contributions.
7. Address Any Criteria They Ask You To
This one is pretty simple. In the job description they may ask you to touch on certain points or topics in your cover letter. If they do, they you definitely need to include them – this isn’t negotiable. If they asked for them, they’re going to be looking for them. And if you submit a cover letter that doesn’t address these points in some way, then you’ll look like you didn’t read the instructions properly, that you didn’t pay enough attention, and that you obviously didn’t give the cover letter a lot of thought or effort. This isn’t the way to wow potential employers. The solution? Simply in some way address the criteria or topics they list in the job description.
8. Show A Little Personality
Part of being successful in the application process is standing out. That said, you want to stand out for the right reasons. So don’t be afraid to share a little about what you stand for professionally, what you look for in a company, and what your professional values are. I also think this is something which can depend on the job you’re going for. For example, I work as a digital copywriter. One digital agency that I applied for specialised in direct response marketing. So I wrote my cover letter in the style of a direct response sales letter. This caught the attention of the agencies Founder & Head of Growth (called Sabri) who decided to sit in on the meeting. Use your judgement depending on the type of business you’re going for on this one, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
9. Write The Way People Speak
Like I mentioned before, as a digital copywriter, my career is all about using words to influence. The biggest tip I can suggest when it comes to writing clearly and effectively, is to keep your writing a simply as possible. The simplest message is the most effective. Use a smaller word in place of a bigger word. Avoid “officialese” – for example say “use” instead of “utilise”. Keep your sentences short and to the point. Also, use paragraphs in your cover letter to break up thoughts and topics.
A Few More Tips To Improve Your Cover Letter Instantly
Okay with the bulk of the core tips for improving your cover letter laid out above. Let’s move on to a couple more tips and tricks to make the process even easier.
10. Avoid Free Cover Letter Templates From The Internet
This is a massive trap for applicants! Avoid them like the plague. Recently we were hiring for a new SEO specialist at the company I work. At least three applicants sent through cover letters which were all EXACTLY the same. I can’t tell you how obvious and terrible this is. Their applications were all instantly throw in the trash. Yes it’s fine to use this templates as a guide. But you need to write your own, unique cover letter. Even if you wrote a cover letter and used that same cover letter for each application (which I don’t suggest), it would still be 1,000 times better than using a template from the internet.
11. Don’t Obsess Over It
Unless you’re going for a writing, editing, content creating, and or proof reading job, then you’re cover letter doesn’t need to be a work of art. Yes it’s needs to address the criteria of the job description, read simply & clearly, and build a good case for your application – but the employer isn’t expecting Shakespeare.
12. Use A Free Grammar Checker
It’s super important to make sure your cover letter (and your resume) is free from spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Some great free tools include Grammarly, which is great for spelling and punctuation. I also like to use Hemmingway which gives you a readability score. The lower your score the better!
Now it’s your turn! Leave a comment below and let me know how you go writing your new cover letter. Found these tips useful? Feel free to share this article with a friend or colleague you know will benefit from it.
You Might Also Like:
- How To Write A Winning Resume
- Common Job Interview Questions & How To Answer Them
- 5 Resume Mistakes And How To Fix Them Today
- How To Find Your Dream Job Fast
Will Vaughan is the Founder & CEO of Your Career Mastery. He’s dedicated to helping young professionals discover and land the job of their dreams using a mix of proven strategies, tips, tools, and mindsets. He currently works as a Content & SEO manager for a 100 million dollar tech company in Melbourne, Australia.