How to write a cover letter (cover letter samples included)
The economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19 may have initially had employees holding off their career changes, but almost two years into the pandemic and many are now taking the plunge.
This wave of talent voluntarily leaving their jobs, dubbed the “Great Resignation”, has been described as a backlog of pent-up resignations. If you are one of them, you might be contemplating on how you can stand out amongst competitive talent in the market who are also rigorously job hunting for their next big opportunity.
A winning cover letter, along with your cv and resume, can boost your chances of landing an interview for your dream job. When skilfully crafted, it showcases your personality and explains how and why you are a great fit for the job – something a resume alone might not do.
Cover letter vs CV vs Resume
- What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is similar to what its name suggests, and is pretty straightforward. It is a letter that covers the key points in your experience and skill set with examples that prove you are a suitable candidate for the job.
- What is a CV?
Unlike a cover letter that reads like a letter, a curriculum vitae, also abbreviated and commonly known as a ‘CV’, is a detailed document that lists your work experience, skills, educational background along with other academic achievements and can be used by people pursuing a career in academia. Given that this document presents a full history of your academic credentials, the length of the document is variable.
- What is a resume?
In contrast, a resume presents a concise picture of your skills and qualifications for a specific position, so length tends to be shorter and is dictated by years of experience, keeping it within one to two pages at maximum.
After knowing the differences of the documents above, you would get a clearer idea of what types of write ups you might need to prepare without having to misunderstand what your potential employer is requesting.
How to write a cover letter?
To support you further, here are our top tips on how to write a cover letter:
- Do your research
It can be as simple as doing a quick google search on cover letter samples, cover letter examples and cover letter templates. There are many avenues and websites that can provide you free resources. Cover letter examples can provide you a spark of inspiration to get started on crafting your own.
Aside from this, it is also key to make sure that you do ample research on the company you are looking to be a part of, as well as the key requirements of the role stated in the job description. This is so that you can amplify these as keywords not just in your resume but also in your cover letter.
- Know your audience
Purely out of politeness, you should address the person mentioned in the job advertisement in your cover letter. If this is information is hard to find, this is a good opportunity to call the company to find out who the contact person is or do a search on LinkedIn to find the recruiter at the company. This way you show that you are genuinely interested in the position, and you will be remembered by the personal contact.
- Tell me about yourself
Having trouble figuring out how to write your cover letter? Start thinking of the most important W-questions:
- Who are you?
- Why exactly do you want to apply for this job?
- What are your strengths?
- What advantages will the company gain from hiring you?
- What do you not (yet) do so well?
- What do you do with enthusiasm?
Answering these questions will already provide you with some content for your cover letter.
- Structure your cover letter
Recruiters and hiring managers don't have much time, so your cover letter should be short and concise – one A4 page is more than adequate. Always remember a cover letter is like a formal letter.
Follow this structure below:
- Header: Insert the sender's address at the top, right-justified, followed by the recipient's address which is left-justified. After two or three spaces, put your city and the date, also right-justified. After the date, put two or three blank lines again. Then comes the subject line. This is an important element so that the recruiter can assign you directly. In the subject line, write the name of the advertised position and the corresponding reference number if any.
- Introduction: In the introduction, you should arouse the interest of the decision-maker right from the start. There are many standard phrases in ready-made templates. But recruiters and hiring managers want to be made curious about you. Therefore, get creative and use new introductions that directly entice them to read through your cover letter completely. Some examples include:
"Are you looking for a [insert job role] to support you during a period of increased growth?"
"I have successfully managed many [insert field you are working in] projects – and that's exactly what I plan to do in your company."
“A [insert your degree in … at …university] has provided an in-depth knowledge of [insert skills]. These skills are further enhanced through …”
- Body: In the main body, go into more depth about the job requirements. Emphasise the highlights of your career so far and why you are the perfect person to fill this position. Stay confident and try not to exaggerate. Here is also where you can add in the information you noted down when you did your company research. You can add a one liner such as:
“My previous role specifically involved [insert your responsibilities]. I believe that this job listing represents a valuable opportunity to work for a company that is [insert company values].”
“I noticed that your company has done [insert examples] and this aligns with my goals and career aspirations.”
- Conclusion: The conclusion should be the send-off, but also encourage a reaction from the recruiter or hiring manager. Through the cover letter, you want to be invited for an interview and this is what you need to confidently ask for. However, avoid subjunctive phrases such as: "I would be happy to hear from you". Such phrases can come across as too shy. Some of our suggestions include:
"I am looking forward to the next stage of this recruitment process. I would be keen to discuss my skills and motivation for the job as [insert job role] in a personal interview."
"Are you convinced? I look forward to the opportunity for an interview at your company."
And don't forget, if the job advertisement asks for certain information, you should also include it in your application in any case. Often, you will be asked for salary expectations and a possible starting date. Do not make the mistake of omitting these items. Applications that do not contain all the necessary information are often rejected immediately. A good place in the cover letter for salary expectations and starting date of employment is the last paragraph before the farewell.
- Personalise your cover letter
Many have the tendency to copy templates and examples found online and this is a red flag for hiring managers, employers and recruiters. The last thing you would want is for your potential employer to glimpse through your letter only to leave it aside amongst a pile of other generic cover letters.
One tip is to make sure spelling and grammatical errors are checked through as it can make you look unprofessional. Therefore, be sure to have a second or even third person read through your cover letter to make sure there are no mistakes.
Ready to submit?
If you have double-checked the above steps and made the relevant edits, you are ready to send your cover letter and the requested documents to the appropriate contact person.
At Huxley, our consultants are on hand to help you source for that next big opportunity. We put our expertise to use to find the perfect job for you and make sure you’re well prepared to impress at every step of the application process.
Reach out to us if you need help or check out our Resource Hub for more information.