How To Write A Cover Letter In 5 Easy Steps

By Emma Edwards
23rd Feb 2022

woman sitting at a rooftop bar with a glass on wine at sunset

Writing cover letters is up there with train delays, your barista giving you full cream milk when you asked for oat, and pairing up socks in your clean laundry. Read: things we do not enjoy one bit.

Cover letters are seen as tedious, repetitive, and a big ol’ speed bump in your journey to that sweet, sweet role you just know you’re perfect for. Like, can’t they just look at my Instagram and see I’m a dead set winner?

Unfortunately, a competitive job market and time-crunched hiring managers means good cover letters are more essential than ever. They’re your chance to stand out and grab the attention of your (hopefully) new boss. Sweating at the thought? Fear not. We’ve rounded up our fool-proof five step process to a killer cover letter.

#1 Find A Name

The best cover letters are those that are personal and show as little signs of “copy and paste” as possible. If the name of the hiring manager isn’t shown in the job description, do your research and see if you can find one. Scour LinkedIn or the company website, and then address your cover letter to the most likely recipient at the organisation. Even if it’s not exactly correct, it still demonstrates that you’ve had a look around. While you’re there, connect with some of the management on LinkedIn, too. Any flicker of recognition when they see your application is a bonus.

#2 Lead With An Elevator Pitch

Getting your cover letter to stand out is the hardest part. Remember, the person reading through the applications might only be skim reading—so give them something to make them stop and notice you.

Start your cover letter with an elevator sentence about why you’re applying for the role – and state what that role is. It might be an anecdote from your childhood about why you’re great with numbers, or an unusual achievement that makes you the perfect candidate. Basically, something that other people won’t say.

#3 Brief Overview Of Background And Skills

Next, it’s time to set the scene about why you’re great for the job. In a few sentences, give a brief overview of your experience, what roles you’ve had and any stand-out information about you. The highlights of your CV, if you like. Keep it fairly brief, and balance professionalism with personality. Don’t cross professional boundaries with profanities or abbreviations, but show a bit of your own flare where you can.

#4 Put Yourself In The Context Of The Role

In the next paragraph, use a couple of sentences to sell yourself in the context of the role. Take information from the job description, research the company and explore their website – but don’t just use the first piece of information that jumps out of the homepage. Dig deep. Show your work ethic by uncovering a nugget of info that they wouldn’t expect you to know. Then, demonstrate how you’ll add value by matching your skills and understanding of the company with the key elements of the job description and company culture.

#5 Round It Off

Round off the cover letter by thanking them for considering your application and specify any attached documents. Have you attached your CV? Portfolio? Show reel? References? Tell them what’s attached so they know what to look for. Then, conclude with how they can reach you, and any specifics on your availability. Sure, your phone number might be on your CV, but make it even easier for them to call you. If you know you’re away from your phone during business hours, tell them, and ask them to leave a voicemail for you to return. It’s all about reducing the barriers between you and them, making it as simple as possible to reach you, trust you, and ultimately, hire you.

...Bonus Step

Oh, and one last thing. Proofread. Copy and paste fails, misspelled names and info about another company that you forgot to take out can be the difference between getting shortlisted and getting binned. Take a few minutes before pressing send to make sure you’ve tailored your cover letter to the right job.

Alright, now you’re the Shakespeare of cover letters, let’s sort out that CV.

Image Credit: Trent Szmolnik

Emma is a finance blogger at The Broke Generation and a reformed spendaholic. She shares hot tips on saving, property, tax, career and investing for millennials who want to break the spending cycle and get financially confident.

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