In our last post, we covered 7 expert tips to make your CV shine. But what about the daunting task of writing the perfect cover letter? If you’re lucky, you’ve applied for jobs that don’t require one—like those LinkedIn “Easy Apply” stress relievers. But for the jobs that do, we’ve crafted this ultimate guide to writing cover letters that are sure to impress. So whether you’re struggling to start or have no clue what to write, this guide will surely help.
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Are Cover Letters Still Important?
Good question. According to a recent study, only 53% of job seekers submitted a cover letter in their most recent application. What’s this mean for you? Even when a cover letter isn’t required, you could stand out from the competition by a whopping 47%!
Key takeaway: as annoying a task as it may be, include one—even when it’s not required.
Should I Keep it Short?
Yep! Enough said. No, I’ll elaborate a bit more…
Man, you’re all fired up now—ready to craft a cover letter that will surely be read! But what should you write? Should you cover your skills? Or express your dream of working for the company? Hmmm…there’s many different routes you could take, but you want to ensure you take the right one!
Key takeaway: Keep it short (1 page) and point out why the recruiter should choose you.
Let’s go into more detail on what to include:
Replicate Your CV Design
Wow—your CV is impressive. It’s one page, it’s aesthetically pleasing and you’ve created an impressive layout. Why should your cover letter be any different? Use the same design elements from your CV in your cover letter. Here’s an example:
But What Should I Include?
Don’t Forget Your Contact Details
This step is a no-brainer! Following the same design elements as your CV, include your picture and contact details at the top of the cover letter. This way, recruiters know how to reach out. That’s the aim of the letter in the first place, right?
Stay up-to-Date With the Date
Have you ever copy-pasted an old cover letter—say from June 2017—and forgot to change the date to June 2019? You’re not alone. I’ve certainly done it! And guess what? I didn’t hear back from the company. It seems self-explanatory, but make sure to include the date—the right one!
To Whom It May Concern Won’t Cut it
When possible, always address a person working at the company. If job applications don’t provide contact details, do a little digging. Head on over to the company’s LinkedIn profile. In the top right corner, you’ll see a tab where you can view the employees working there. Click on it to find the right person to address in your letter. Don’t panic if you can’t find the managing director of the department you’re applying to—try searching for the Head of Human Resources. Even if this person isn’t the hiring manager for the position in which you’re applying, they’ll surely direct your application to the right contact.
Now Comes the Fun Part—the Opening Line
How can you persuade the hiring manager you’re the perfect fit for the job? Open strong or go home! Your first two sentences must grab their attention and inspire them to keep reading. The best way to do this is through storytelling.
Something like this will do the trick:
“I must admit, I was really excited to see that Lix has an opening for a Human Resource Officer. I’ve been following your company for a long time and am inspired by your vision—transforming the way students learn worldwide. I’d like to be a part of that.”
Now it’s time to answer some questions, but don’t just repeat what’s in your CV! Instead, tell a story. Everyone loves a story, even recruiters! Here are some questions to consider when writing your cover letter:
Why should this company hire you? To answer this question, make sure to read through the job advert very carefully. Find out what the company is looking for. Then, exploit it. Address how your skills and expertise are aligned with the kind of employee the company is seeking. If they’re looking for someone who is capable of working in a fast-paced environment, give them a success story—an example of a time you found yourself in a similar situation and came out on top!
How can your skills help the company solve a problem? A close friend of mine recently applied for a Digital Marketing Director position at a Copenhagen-based startup. She really did her homework—researching the company to find out if they had any weaknesses in their digital marketing strategy. Then she based her cover letter on solving a specific problem—but not in a “your company sucks” sort of way. Instead, she generalized a problem that all companies face and demonstrated how she could help solve it.
It looked something like this:
“It’s getting harder and harder for brands to get in front of consumers through digital marketing, especially when they’re being bombarded by advertisements every single day. So how can brands stand out in the crowd? While it’s important to attract new followers to your social media platform, it’s even more important to get them to engage with your content. As a digital marketing professional, I’ve helped companies reach more customers and increase their engagement by over 100% in as little as three months through paid advertisement. This is my approach…”
Then she went on to briefly describe how she approached her work. And guess what? She landed the job! Not only did she state a problem, she demonstrated a fact-based result and showcased her approach to solving the problem.
What skills do you have that will help complete the job better than anyone else? While you should steer clear of bragging too much in your cover letter, it’s important to showcase certain skills or know-how that may help you stand out in a pool of applicants. If we revisit the previous example, let’s dive into my friend’s approach to solving the problem—an approach that demonstrated her know-how without having to brag:
“This is my approach:
- Every successful ad campaign starts with research.
- I use keyword tools, like Google Ads Keyword Planner, to check the demand for specific words and phrases.
- Next, I structure and organize my keywords into targeted groups for each ad group.
- Based on the allocated budget, I then determine which keywords to use and which ones to throw out.
- But I don’t stop there. I research what competitors in the industry are doing.
- Lastly, I ensure that users who click on the ads are sent to a page that’s most relevant to the ad and the intent, interest and needs of the user.”
Businesses measure success in terms of results. Companies looking for new employees want to know what you can bring to the table. Show the business what you can do—and prove you’ve done it before (preferably with examples).
In 6 simple steps, my friend mapped out her approach to pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. And when she landed the interview, it was a great springboard for discussion. This way, she had the chance to go much deeper into her digital marketing strategy.
What makes you a good employee? If you’re a great teammate, give an example. Or if others are drawn to your friendly demeanor, tell about it. Here’s an example:
“Forming solid relationships with my colleagues has always been important to me. You can count on me to organize team gatherings, after-work beers or regular outings. Spending time outside of work with colleagues helps shape meaningful and lasting relationships for everyone and makes going to work way more fun.”
While this might not work when applying to stuffy corporations, in most cases it’s exactly what recruiters are looking for—an open-minded, team player who will fit right in to the company culture.
What extra qualifications do you have that are relevant to the role? Sure, you’re educational background fits the job description. But have you taken any extra courses or completed any certificates that add value to your profile? Or have you done something extraordinary that demonstrates your work-ethic or values? Maybe you’ve interned or volunteered in an organization or nonprofit—show it. Here’s an example of what you could include:
“I continually try to push myself—not only at work but in my personal life. Just last year, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the largest mountain in Africa. What I gained from that experience—determination and drive—complements the way I approach my work.”
While climbing a mountain may have nothing to do with the job requirements, it shows that you are capable of accomplishing challenging tasks. This is sure to impress recruiters!
Once you’ve answered some of these questions, the recruiter will have a solid understanding of who you are and (hopefully) be convinced to hire you!
Extra Tips for Writing Great Cover Letters
Tailor Your Cover Letter for Each Job
The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work well with CVs or cover letters. Instead, tailor it for each position you’re applying for. Personalize each cover letter and make sure to include buzzwords from the job advertisement. For example, if the company is looking for “a team player who’s willing to go the extra mile,” don’t just state you’re a team player in your cover letter, give an example.
OK, so you’ve included your on-the-job experience in your CV. Use your cover letter to explain your experience in detail. And give examples.
Paint a picture for the company and use data to back it up.
Here’s an example. Which of these choices is most impressive?
- I helped companies reach more customers and increase their engagement through paid ads.
- As a digital marketing professional, I’ve helped companies reach more customers and increase their engagement by over 100% in as little as three months through paid advertisement.
Option 2 for the win, right?
Tell a Story
If you recall, my friend elaborated on her data-backed example by telling a story of how she approached her work as a digital marketing professional.
Use storytelling to give a human touch and add personality to your cover letter. It also helps make your cover letter a bit more memorable to recruiters who’s inbox is filled with one-pagers. Make yours stand out!
But don’t over-do it. It needs to be relevant. Unless your story directly relates to your assets for the position, throw it out. Those pet adoption stories probably won’t cut it (unless you’re a veterinarian). On the other hand, a story on how you created a digital marketing strategy to achieve your data-backed results might just make recruiters’ hearts swoon!
Make Your Cover Letter Unique
If you’re applying for a creative role, be daring. Add a splash of color, use some killer graphics or experiment with layouts. But if you’re applying for a more traditional role, be a bit more careful. Get a feel for the company before going all Picasso.
Ask yourself these questions:
Is the company relaxed or professional—playful or corporate? You’ll get a pretty good feel for the company culture by visiting their website and social media platforms.
And test it out. If you’re not getting the results you’d like from your cover letter, revise it and try again. Play around with different formats, colors, headers and even font styles.
Have a Professional Read it
Opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one. But you definitely want the opinion of a professional. If you’re applying for a position in human resources and you notice one of your LinkedIn connections is a Human Resource Manager, reach out and have her read your cover letter. Or maybe you have a friend or relative that knows a thing or two about hiring. It’s important to get a second (or third) pair of eyes on it (and an objective opinion)!
But even a non-professional is better than nothing. Email it to a friend or family member to glance over it before you hit “send.” A first impression is everything. You want to make a good one!
Congrats! You’re on your way to writing an amazing cover letter! Whether you’re looking for that perfect internship, student job or applying for your first position, we’re here to help. So stay tuned for more career advice from Lix.
Here’s a checklist for your next cover letter:
- Keep it short
- Replicate your CV design
- Address your cover letter to a person
- Answer 1-2 of the following questions:
- Why should the company hire you?
- How can your skills help the company solve a problem?
- What skills do you have that will help complete the job better than anyone else?
- What makes you a good employee?
- What extra qualifications do you have that are relevant to the role?
- Tailor your cover letter for each job
- Include facts
- Tell a story
- Make sure your cover letter is unique
- Have a professional review it before clicking send
Did we miss anything? If you have some awesome cover letter tips to share, please leave us a comment.