If you’re currently applying for new jobs, then it’s vital that you have a strong cover letter to accompany your resume. When you write your own cover letter well, it will help you to build rapport with recruiters and greatly increase your chances of landing job interviews.
In this article let’s discuss what exactly a cover letter is, how to write a really good one for each and every application you make, and walk through my step by step process of writing a cover letter for your resume. This is going to help you get more responses from your job applications and ultimately get you more interviews.
What is a cover letter and what is its purpose?
A cover letter is a small piece of text or a briefing notes that accompanies your resume whenever you send it to an employer or a recruiter, when you’re applying for a job. It’s aim is to firstly introduce yourself, to build rapport with the person that you are approaching, and ultimately to encourage them to look at your resume.
This is the most important point. When you’re writing your cover letter, just remember those three things. Most importantly, you’ve got to always remember that you’re trying to encourage somebody else to look at your resume. That’s what’s going to lead to more interviews for you. When you’re writing a cover letter to a recruiter or to an employer, it is really simple.
Write your own cover letter in the email body
The first thing to remember is to always write your cover letter in the body of your message or email. What I mean by that, is if you’re sending an email to a recruiter or an employer – which I’d always recommend doing, because it ensures the message goes straight through to the right person – then write the text of your cover letter actually in the body of the email.
Don’t attach it as a separate document. The same thing goes if you’re applying on job websites. They’ll usually give you an option to write some text, so you can actually write the text of your cover letter. What that means is and when you write in that box it will go through to the recruiter as an email. The text will appear in the body of the email in the same way as it does if we if you were to write it in an email.
Now, imagine a recruiters inbox. They’re very busy, they’ve got a lot of jobs on, they’ve got an inbox overflowing of applications. If they click on your application, they will see that this person has actually written their cover letter in the body of their email. What this means, is a recruiter can quickly see that as soon as she opens the email, they can read that and be persuaded to open the resume.
Now if we look at somebody who attaches their cover letter separately you know just writing a brief note like cover letter and resume attached, then the recruiter has to scroll down to the cover letter, open up the cover letter – bearing in mind they are probably very busy and have lots of applications to go through – they then have to read the cover letter, then close that document and they’ve got to go and open up the resume.
What this does it just slows things down you know if you imagine a recruiter who’s got you know hundred applications that have just come in that day which is not uncommon for for an average recruiter you know they don’t want to be mucking around having to open multiple documents.
If you want to get their attention quickly, write your own cover letter in the body of your email or the body of the job board messaging system. Straightaway, the message is going straight through to them and you’re going to give yourself a much bigger chance of your resume getting opened.
Other than writing your message in the body of your email or messaging system, there isn’t really much more advice as far as formatting, because you’re simply writing in plain text. It’s just a case of making sure that the one you’re using is clear and understandable, and spacing the message out, if its nicely broken up, so look at the structure.
Now I’m going to run through all of the the core areas of the cover letter, and I’m going to go into more detail on each one a bit later.
Address the recipient
We’ll start by addressing the recipient. So, you know just a simple case of hi and the name of the person and so I’ll have a friendly greeting like hope you’re well? I hope this email finds you well or something like that. This is kind of start building rapport. Then you need to explain which job you’re applying for – it sounds simple however a lot of people forget to do this – recruiters will often have multiple jobs on the go and even hiring managers will be dealing with a number of vacancies at times. You know, just be clear about the job you’re applying for and then the bulk of the cover letter is where you are explaining why you’re suitable for the job.
This is the most important bit. I’m going to cover this in a bit more detail later. I’m just trying to give you a rundown of the structure for now and then at the bottom you want to let them know your availability for interview and you want to sign off in a friendly manner, and that’s pretty much it for structure.
Now I’m going to take a closer look at how you should start your cover letter. The best way to start a cover letter is by addressing the recipient by name. You’ve got to remember that you’re dealing with people, whether you’re emailing a recruiter or an employee or a hiring manager, you know there’s going to be someone on the other end of that message.
When you’re receiving a message you know it’s nicer to be addressed by your name. So you need to try to find the person’s name as much as you can. Sometimes, you’ll find the recruiter or the hiring manager’s name on the job advert although it’s probably quite rare. Often what you’ll have to do, is head over to the company website have a look around. Look at the about section, the team section, have a good scan around and try and find the person who would be most likely to be handling that vacancy.
LinkedIn is also a really good resource, because you can search up a company and then you can look at all of their employees, and you can filter on like departments and the type of job they do. Another thing you can do to try and find the person who’s most likely to be looking after the vacancy. You know, don’t worry too much if you can’t find the name, just start with a simple Hello.
Whatever you do, please don’t starting with dear sir or madam. This may have been okay 30, 40 or 50 years ago, however now it’s a bit dated and a bit impersonal, you know. You don’t want to receive an email saying dear sir or madam; I’d rather just have Hello or something you know a bit more friendly and personal.
How long should your cover letter be?
I would recommend to my cover letter up around three to six sentences. Please avoid writing a whole page of A4 or anything longer. You have to remember that the purpose of the cover letter is to persuade people to open your resume and again as I said before recruiters and hiring managers are very busy people that are pressed for time. They’re looking at lots of applications, so you want to make sure that you get across your message quickly and get them to open your resume as quick as they can.
That’s where you’re going to have more of the detail and they’re actually going to be reviewing and assessing and passing emails to their colleagues. The cover, let’s just keep it brief and get your point across really, really quickly. Once you have introduced yourself and explained which job you’re applying for, the core part of the cover letter is you trying to persuade the reader to open your resume.
What you need to do is you need to sell yourself and you need to prove that you’re suitable for the job that you’re applying for. Now you know, if you put yourself in a recruiter shoes and if they open up an email and there are lots of hints that this person is right for the job that they were recruiting for, then obviously that’s going to persuade them to go open your resume. It’s really that simple.
Do your research
First of all, you need to do your research. You cannot start writing a cover letter or even your resume before you’ve done your research on the job you’re applying for. We need to go to one of the big job boards, and search for the kind of jobs that you’re looking for. Be specific as possible, don’t just write, for example, “teacher”, rather you should write “primary teacher”. Don’t just write “marketing” you know, be more specific and write “digital marketing”, because you want to build up a good picture of the type of candidates that those employers are looking for.
You need to then go through those job ads and look for the hard skills, the real sort of job specific skills that are important to those roles. Review the kind of experience, skills and knowledge they’re looking for and just make a list of all of those things. That way, you know what your target employers are looking for and you’re not just using guesswork – you’ve got a real good idea.
Skills, experience and knowledge
Then you just match those to the skills that you have and those are the kind of things that you need to be including in your cover letter and in your resume. Once you’ve done your research on the job boards and you’ve got a good understanding of what skills and experience and knowledge your target employers are looking for, then it’s really just a case of writing a brief explanation as to why you’re the best person for the job that you’re applying for.
You must be making yourself look as suitable as possible. You do that by including relevant skills, and by including your level of experience, by talking about your qualifications if they are needed by the role. Also discuss what your current situation is at the moment, are you currently working for a similar company and a similar role or are you working in a slightly different role?
Explain the why
Another point that you should look to include in your cover letter, is your motivation for applying for that particular job. When recruiters receive applications, one of the first things that want to know is why is this person looking for a new job? Why do they want to work here? They can often be suspicious and sort of think the worst of people. Try to be positive and then show that you are enthusiastic and you are looking to apply for a new job for the right reasons.
Say something like “…after spending two years of senior management in my current firm, I’m looking to take a step up to manage a bigger team, in a more specialist market.” Now that sounds positive and enthusiastic, and sounds like this person is looking to progress. That’s the kind of employee that employers want to take on. Don’t write something like “I’ve recently been fired from my old job, so I need a new one quickly”. That obviously just sounds very negative and it doesn’t make this person like a great candidate.
Even if that is the real case, don’t write something like that. You can be more creative, in a way that makes you sound more positive and progressive.
Sell the benefits
If you really want to make a big impact with your cover letter, then what you can do is you can touch upon some of the things that you’ve achieved for your last or current employer, and some of the results you’ve delivered for them.
For example, if your work has saved money, or if it’s generated new customers, or improved processes which obviously save time and money or if you’ve made sales for your employer, then these are all things obviously greatly benefit the people you work for. The reason this is so impactful is because ultimately employers are looking for people that can benefit them.
It’s nice that you’ve got skills and experience, however really what they want is someone that can actually you know deliver results for them. I would say is touch upon these in the cover letter. Don’t give them heaps of detail, because you’ve not got a lot of space and time in the cover letter. Just sort of mention the fact that you’ve saved money or you’ve brought in new customers. If you can mention some things like this, that really helps to excite the person that you’re approaching and should you know encourage them to open your resume.
Close the cover letter off well
Once you’ve explained why you’re the most suitable person for the job that you’re applying for and hopefully you persuade the recruiter to open your resume, you just want to round the cover letter off nicely so that it looks professional and it continues to build rapport with that person. Firstly, I would express your interest to progress to an interview, like “I would welcome the opportunity to meet” or let them know what your availability for the interview is, and this just lets people know you’re serious and it gets into their mindset.
If you then add a signature at the very bottom, this looks professional and secondly it ensures that they’ve got your contact details and if they want to get you in for an interview, they can find you straight away.
Hopefully this article has given you a good overall process on how to write your own cover letter – one that’s going to a get you noticed and be getting more interviews. Good luck with the job search!