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.
Unfortunately, a competitive job market and time-crunched recruiters mean a strong cover letter is more essential than ever. They’re your chance to stand out, show off your skills, and grab the attention of your (hopefully) new boss. Sweating at the thought? Fear not. Here's our fool-proof five-step process on how to write a cover letter that will get you one step closer to your dream job.
1. Find A Name
The best cover letters are those that are personal and show as few signs of the old copy and paste as possible. If the name of the hiring manager isn’t shown in the job description, see if you can find one by scouring LinkedIn or the company website, or giving the company a call and asking to whom your cover letter should be addressed. While you’re at it, connect with some of the management on LinkedIn—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 writing your cover letter with an elevator sentence about why you’re right for the role. 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 that grabs attention, showcases your personality, and proves that you have what it takes to nail the job.
3. Share Your Skills And Background Highlights
Next, it’s time to set the scene about why you’re great for the job. Give a brief overview of your experience, what roles you’ve had and any stand-out information about you that is specific to the job you're applying for—the most relevant and important bits from your more detailed 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. Position Yourself In The Company
Now, 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. Show your work ethic by uncovering a nugget of info that they wouldn’t expect you to know. Then, demonstrate how you’ll help the company achieve its goals 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 specifying attached documents—and get creative, if you can. Have you attached your CV? Portfolio? Showreel? References? Tell them what’s attached so they know what to look for.
Conclude with how they can reach you, and any specifics on your availability. Sure, your phone number and email might be on your CV, but make it even easier for them to be sure they can reach you—so if you can't take a call during business hours at your current role, kindly advise them that email would be preferred.
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.
Now you’re the Shakespeare of cover letters, let’s sort out that CV.
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.