How to write an effective cover letter
You’ve got a beautifully written and formatted resume and you’re ready to apply for your dream job. Have you thought about a cover letter? Do you really need one? In most cases, yes. But don’t worry! We’re here to help.
An effective cover letter introduces you to your potential employer and gives you a chance to elaborate on your key strengths, skills and experience that are included in your resume, while indicating why you’re the best person for the role. It’s your opportunity to really sell yourself and set yourself apart.
What should you include?
A great cover letter starts with great formatting. Before you sit down and deploy your best persuasive writing skills, start by ensuring you have all the crucial information down.
- Firstly, set your document up like a traditionally letter: add the date, your name and your contact details to the top left of the page.
- Second, on the top right of the page, address your letter to the person or position you’re applying to (you can usually find this on the job listing). Add their company and address you are applying to as specified by the job advertisement or listing.
- say why you’re interested in the job, and give an overview of why you’re the most suitable candidate for the position
- reference the selection criteria listed in the job advertisement and reference these against your resume, skills, knowledge and/or experience
- finish your cover letter with confidence by saying that you look forward to being able to discuss the opportunity/position in more detail at an interview
- Be concise – try to keep it to a single page
- Use a generic cover letter that you send with every application, instead, customise your letter for the job and organisation you’re applying to
- Save your document as ‘cover-letter.pdf’. Save as a PDF along with some form of your name. We suggest ‘firstname-lastname-coverletter.pdf’ so your document is easily identifiable and doesn’t get lost in the hiring managers downloads folder.
Before you begin writing, it’s helpful to get a feel for the organisation you’re applying to. What are their values and what is their vision statement? What’s important to them? What do you love about their culture? You want to get a feel for who they are so you can show them why you’d be the perfect fit in their team and embrace their business goals. Ask yourself, how do they align with you and your skills, values and goals?
As with any piece of writing, your opening paragraph should grab your reader’s attention. Begin by introducing yourself and explain why this job excites you. Outline your personal values and why your specific skills and experience are the perfect match for the role. What sets you apart from the rest of the candidate’s whose resumes are setting next to yours on the hiring managers desk?
Be future minded
Your cover letter isn’t a replacement for your resume, so don’t be tempted to simply repeat whatever you’ve mentioned there. Think of your resume as a lookback on all your past achievements and experience and your cover letter as an opportunity to explain what you hope to do next and how the past has shaped your future career goals. A cover letter is a great way to market yourself - don't be afraid to add some of your own passion and personality to your letter. You want to stand out from the crowd!