Creating the perfect cover letter is a task that is easier said than done. Luckily, there's a straightforward formula to writing a great cover letter that will do you justice and get you noticed.
Although it tends to get less attention than the resume, the cover letter is just as important. It’s generally the first thing prospective employers will look at when considering your application. If it’s poorly written, your resume may never even have a chance to shine.
A strong cover letter, on the other hand, can help you stand out and make a good first impression, so here’s what you should know about how to write a cover letter.
1. Include the essentials
There are a few essentials that should always be included in your cover letter, including:
- The employer or hiring manager’s name
Always do a bit of research to find the recipient’s name rather than opening with an impersonal “To whom it may concern” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” If you’re not sure who to address, call the contact number provided or check the company’s website for clues.
- The position you’re applying for
Companies often have more than one opening at a time, so it’s best to be clear about which job you’re applying for and how you heard about it. If someone within the company recommended you, mentioning this in your cover letter can help give you an edge.
- Why you’re a good fit for the job
Don’t make the cover letter all about what you want. Instead, demonstrate how you meet or exceed the job requirements by highlighting your relevant skills and experience and explaining how your qualifications benefit the employer.
2. Grab the reader’s attention
It’s important to start off strong with a leading statement or question that grabs the reader’s attention and encourages them to keep reading. Using bullet points to highlight accomplishments and keeping your paragraphs short and succinct also helps to make it more easily scannable.
3. Show that you’ve researched the company
Don't wait around for an interview to show you've done your homework. If you really want to get noticed, spend some time learning more about the company and then showing them that you’ve done your research by weaving important bits of information you’ve gleaned into the cover letter.
For instance, if the company was recently mentioned in a news article, you could let them know you read and enjoyed it, or if you find out that the company is currently facing a specific challenge, you could figure out how your skills and expertise might help them deal with it.
4. Keep it succinct
A cover letter should be as succinct as possible, so don’t use it to summarise your resume.
Career Counsellor, Stephanie Kinkaid recommends instead; "Focus on at least 3 - 4 skills that directly apply to the position and tie your attributes to the company to which you are applying". Remember to back up these skills with actual facts and evidence demonstrated in your past roles.
You can also include a bit of information you won’t find in your resume, such a personal attachment you may have to the company or its products and services.
Yes, it may seem obvious, but this point is absolute paramount. Spelling and grammar mistakes will always highlight your lack of attention to detail to a potential employer or hiring manager.
Comb through your cover letter precisely and don't rely on the in-built digital spelling and grammar tools to pick up your mistakes. Proofread it meticulously at least five times, and just for safe measure, enlist the help of a friend who enjoys correcting grammar errors to proofread it again. You don't want to forego your dream job due to a careless typo.
Looking for more advice on how to write a cover letter? Check out this cover letter guide for dos, don’ts and examples.