Writing an Effective Cover Letter: An Essential Step-by-step Guide
Writing a great cover letter is an important first step on the road to landing a job, especially the job that you really really want. Fortunately, with our easy-to-follow guide, producing that impactful cover letter to make the right first impression is within easy reach. Here’s how you can:
Cover Letter Dos
Before we get into specifics, always have in mind these absolute necessities:
- Do send a cover letter with any application, or any resume.
- Do make the cover letter specific to the job, position, and company you are sending it to.
- Do take as much time over writing a great cover letter as you would when producing a great resume.
- Do make it unique from your resume by really targeting one specific position in a specific company.
- Do have your research done on the company, and make it obvious in the cover letter.
- Do address your cover letter to a specific individual within the organization.
- Do make sure you grab the reader’s attention quickly with a great first paragraph.
- Do use dynamic, individual language, full of your personality.
- Do use examples of great templates to help you along the way, particularly with the layout.
- Do always focus on the question ‘Why you?’
- Do make every word necessary.
- Do make sure you individually sign each cover letter, so it never appears mass-produced.
- Do read over your cover letter more than once to spot any mistakes.
- Do keep it brief, and impactful.
- Do especially keep it brief if you are emailing it, and format it as well as possible.
- Do include a call to action, such as a request to call you for an interview.
Cover Letter Don’ts
Any of course, be aware of these cover letter faux pas:
- Don’t send out generic cover letters.
- Don’t fail to tailor each cover letter to the position and company you are applying to.
- Don’t use the usual, clichéd language, such as ‘I was very interested to see your advertisement’ or ‘I am a good communicator.’
- Don’t make your cover letter the same as your resume.
- Don’t write too much.
- Don’t sound negative.
- Don’t fail to include company-specific details which show a great level of research.
- Don’t just send a cover letter and wait. Chase up, call and show initiative and enthusiasm.
What needs to be included in a cover letter?
So, we’ve covered the dos and don’ts, now it’s time to think specifically about what your cover letter should include. No, must include.
First and foremost, your cover letter must be unique from your resume –do not simply include all the information that would form a standard resume. This is your chance to be role and company-specific, show you have detailed knowledge of the company you are applying for, state why you would be the best person for your job, and generally make a striking and memorable first impression. That said, there are still expectations of a standard cover letter, so be sure to include the following:
- Company name and specific company contact, including job title.
- Immediate information about the job you are applying for or interested in, and where you saw it advertised.
- Company specific information which shows good research and knowledge.
- Reasons why you would be a great fit for the company and that particular role.
- Your personal information, including all the essentials such as name, address, email, telephone number, etc.
- Your written (not printed) signature.
And when done, proofread! In fact, get someone else to check over it too as an alternative eye can often spot things you can’t. If you are emailing the cover letter, format it beautifully. If you are posting it, think how you can present it best, which usually means not folding it a hundred times! And finally, keep records of what you have sent, and who you have sent it to.
Structuring your cover letter
It may still seem like a daunting task, but by remembering the advice already given, and by following these recommendations, you can produce a first-class cover letter. First of all, let’s break it down into six easy chunks:
- Main body
- Final paragraph
The art of good letter writing has somewhat declined for obvious reasons, but most people from the older generation will clearly remember the skill of correct addressing from school. First, on the upper right-hand side of the page, detail your own name and full address, phone number and email address. Then, further down the page on the left-hand side, include the full name and full company address of who you are sending it to. Obviously, these points are invalid if you are sending your cover letter by email.
Simply, this is how you greet the person you are writing to. We have mentioned previously that you must write to a specific person – good research can assist with this. Once you have this information, the salutation becomes simple:
- DearvMr. Johnson,
- Dear Dr. Johnson,
- Dear Ms. Johnson,
Don’t forget the comma, and leave a line before beginning the letter.
If you simply cannot discover the name of the person you are writing to, then the salutation becomes generic:
- Dear Sir or Madam
- To Whom It May Concern
- Dear Hiring Manager
- Dear Human Resources/HR Manager
Make the first sentence as impactful as possible, but within this opening salvo you also need to be clear about what position you are applying for or are interested in. Simply, why are you writing?
This is the most important paragraph in the entire cover letter. The others are
- Why you for this position?
- Why you for this company?
- What specific skills and experience can you bring?
Include knowledge of the position and company that only thorough research could provide. And remember, this is not a repeat of what is in your resume.
Here you state any call to action, and what you will do yourself. This basically entails asking for the opportunity to be interviewed (or demanding, but in the politest way possible), and stating your intention to follow up.
Once again there are generic closing remarks that can be added, and these do not differ greatly from any formal piece of writing. They can be listed as follows:
- Sincerely / Yours sincerely
- Regards / Kind regards / Best regards
- Thank you for your consideration / Thank you
Follow with a comma, leave a line, then add your complete name. After, sign individually, and do this with every cover letter you send. If possible, use a blue pen to distinguish the signature as authentic and different from the written text preceding it. For example:
And that’s it! That completes our step-by-step guide to writing an effective, impactful cover letter that will set you off on the right foot to obtaining your desired job. Remember to be unique, individual, and let your personality shine through. Give it the time and attention it deserves, make sure it is proofread with Textly.ai, and you have a winning cover letter ready to be sent. Good luck!