Cover letters have always been less of the focus between the two important job application materials (the other being resumes, of course!).
At the same time, they are also often the most confusing. It can be hard to understand the purpose of a cover letter, and what to include in a cover letter.
Today, you’re in luck! I’ll let you in on my secrets of writing a good cover letter.
Here is a step-by-step guide on How to Write A Cover Letter!
So sit tight, and let’s get started!
1. Cover Letter General Design
Before we start with the cover letter proper, let us begin with the overall format of the cover letter.
You want to ensure that the font and font size of the cover letter is the same as your resume, so that there is consistency between the two materials.
For example, if you have been using Arial size 11 for most of the content in your resume, make sure that you use the same font and font size for your cover letter.
2. Cover Letter General Format
Let’s delve into the different sections of a cover letter. The general format of the entire cover letter goes like this:
1 Name and personal details
2 Name, position and company of correspondence (optional)
3 Headline (optional)
4 Cover letter content
2.1 Name and personal details
First, you should include the same details as per your resume: Your full name, contact details, and your LinkedIn page.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn page yet, check out our LinkedIn guide to get started!
This is rather self-explanatory, as it provides an easy way for the correspondence to contact you if he/she is interested in any further discussion.
2.2 Name and position of correspondence (optional)
This is optional, as you might not always know the person and position of this person you are sending the cover letter to.
Sometimes, you might just be sending a cold email to a company, or applying to a job with no clear information about the person in charge of the position. In this case, you can leave this part out and move on to the next step.
In some cases, you might know the correspondence beforehand, perhaps through a prior networking session prior. It would be good to then add a personal touch by include the correspondence’s name and position in the company.
2.3 Headline (optional)
This is also optional, and depends on personal preferences.
For me, I typically like cover letters to start with a headline to bring to attention the purpose of the cover letter, and the position the applicant is applying for.
It can be something as simple as:
Application for the post of <NAME OF JOB VACANCY>
3. Cover letter content
Now that you have gotten the design and format of the cover letter down pat, it is time for perhaps the most important part of the cover letter: the content of the letter itself.
This is also often the hardest part when considering how to write a cover letter.
For the cover letter content, I would categorize them into three parts:
- Attract and Persuade
The introduction should be a short yet strong pitch to the reader. It serves a few key purposes:
- Show strong interest
First, you should show strong interest to the position you are applying for, and offer brief reasons to show your relevance to the position you are applying for.
- Overview of key strengths
It is also important to condense your key strengths into 1 to 2 lines. This is to help the reader understand that you are well qualified and skilled for the job vacancy, and to compel him/her to read on.
If you successfully catch the reader’s attention here, he/she will naturally be interested in you. The reader would want to find out more about your skills and experience and how they can fit with the company’s needs.
3.2 Attract and Persuade
After catching the reader’s attention, you now want to persuade him/her into trusting that you are the ideal candidate for the job.
Within these 1 or 2 paragraphs, these are 2 things you should do:
- Demonstrate your unique proposition
Among the many candidates that are vying for this job, what makes you stand out?
There might be many candidates that have similar experience and skillset as you. Now, you have to show your unique proposition, something that other candidates cannot offer.
This can be in the form of some special projects managed, extensive experience in related industries, awards and accolades etc.
- Explain your key skills and experiences
After differentiating yourself as a candidate, you will also need to explain your skills and experiences that you have gained in the past, and how they relate to the job vacancy you are applying for.
After all, every employer is trying to hire someone to solve certain problems they face.
You will have to find out what kind of skills they are looking for (from secondary research, such as the job description and LinkedIn searches).
You will then have to prove that you are the perfect candidate, well-versed in the skills they require.
After successfully attracting interest of the reader by following the steps above, it is time to end with a punch (Not literally, of course!)
The closing paragraph of your cover letter should do these few things:
- Reiterate your interest in the company
First, show a reaffirmation to your interest to the company.
- Prove that you are the ideal candidate for the company
Next, you can focus on the key skills that you possess, and how they perfectly match the needs and requirements of the ideal candidate the company is looking for.
Show that you are the missing link that can contribute and fulfill all their job requirements.
- Provide contact details and invitation for an interview
Finally, urge the reader to invite you for further discussion.
Add a subtle call to action that will prompt the reader to consider you for the role, and to invite you to take the next step in the application (a job interview!)
4. Other General Tips
Congratulations on making it this far! You might think that you have mastered how to write a cover letter now.
Not so fast!
After finishing your cover letter writing, explore the following general tips to further refine your cover letter.
4.1 Focus on contributions
When writing your cover letter, many of you might be focused on showing all of your skills and experiences possible, to try and impress the reader.
While demonstrating skills and experience are important, relevance is key.
Emphasize on attributes that show how you can contribute to the company, rather than simply why the company should hire you.
By putting the company before yourself, it shows the reader than you are committed to the company, and put great thought into the application.
4.2 Length of cover letter
Avoid rambling and including irrelevant details.
The ideal length of a cover letter will be one page or less.
The key is to succinctly give the reader a good idea of who you are as a candidate, and why he/she should read your other application materials in more detail.
4.3 Avoid duplicating resume content
A final tip here is based on a common mistake that many people make.
Don’t simply copy and paste things from your resume! While the two are similar, what’s the point of having two different materials if they present the same exact content?
In the cover letter, avoid simply listing your achievements. As you are given a chance to elaborate, make sure that you drive home the point to show how you are the candidate that best fulfills their requirements.
If you have followed the steps and taken note of the tips above, writing a cover letter should come much easier for you!
Hopefully, ‘How To Write A Cover Letter’ is no longer a mystery to you!
You are welcome to engage our free review services for me to have a look and give some comments!
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