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How to Write A Cover Letter
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Roland Coombes is a veteran recruitment consultant, highly accomplished careers expert, and master resume writer with over 25 years of industry experience.

Do You Still Need a Cover Letter? 

Firstly, let’s answer the age-old question: do recruiters and employers still read cover letters? The answer is yes

A large proportion of employers and recruiters will open the cover letter. However, many will switch off after just a few seconds if they can’t instantly find the information they are looking for, if the content is a duplicate of their resume, or if the job cover letter content doesn’t immediately grab their interest.

 

So how do you create a cover letter that will capture a reader’s interest in seconds?

The answer is simple: the content needs to be on point, relevant, and needs to talk to the reader as if you are standing excellent, and you are their dream candidate. And remember, a Cover Letter is not a replica of your LinkedIn profile or Resume – it needs to be unique. 

Start Each Cover Letter from Scratch

Recruiters can instantly see a cookie-cutter cover letter that is being used for the same job and distributed to multiple vacancies. If you really want to make that all-important impression, you’ll need to start with a blank canvas, really think about the role that you are applying for, and build the content around the role being advertised as opposed to building the content around your CV and experience.

content verbatim, which won’t be good for you or the reader.

 

Research the Company

Before you start writing, it’s essential to research the company thoroughly. Understand their values, culture, and the specifics of the role you’re applying for. Be on the lookout for any useful points of interest and announcements that the company has published, which could be used to integrate into your cover letter.

  • Visit the company’s website.
  • Read recent news articles about the company.
  • Check out their social media profiles.
  • Understand the company’s products, services, and industry positioning.

Once you have this information, you can start to think about how you can incorporate this into the wording of your cover letter, which will show the content is fully customised and aligned to the business or recruitment agency and the role you are applying to. For example, if a company has recently launched a series of new products onto the market, you can include a comment such as, “I’m excited to see that you are launching XYZ into the market, and I would love to be part of this project. With my experience in communications, I believe I can be a real value in ensuring the product’s success.”

Start with a Strong Opening

This is where many people lose the reader’s interest. If you start with a bland and generic opening statement, chances are all the great content you have researched or are including will be quickly missed. To counter this, think about how you can customise the introduction so that your cover letter will quickly stand out.

Example of a bland cover letter introduction: “With a passion for innovative marketing strategies and a proven track record of driving successful campaigns, I am thrilled to apply for the Marketing Manager position at ABC Corporation.”

Example of a “Hire Me” cover letter introduction: “I am thrilled to apply for the Marketing Manager position at ABC Construction. Given my 10 years in the Construction Sector, and more specifically in the infrastructure delivery services, coupled with expertise in SAP, I have the skills needed to make this role a success.”

You can see from the second example how the job seeker has included technical specifics in the cover letter, highlighting areas such as the construction sector, infrastructure delivery, and IT technical skills. Thus, within a few seconds, the reader knows that the job seeker has skills and qualities that are directly aligned to the position being advertised

how long should a cover letter be

Highlight Relevant Experience and Skills

You’ll need to keep the rest of the content relevant to the job description. Avoid falling into the trap of trying to write content that covers every single aspect of your career history. That’s not what the reader wants to read. You need to demonstrate how your background aligns with the job requirements. Focus on achievements and quantify them whenever possible.

Job Ad: Social Media Marketing using Salesforce. Example: “At XYZ Inc., I led a team that increased social media engagement by 150% over six months. My strategic approach to content creation, data-driven decision-making, and my manipulation of Salesforce CRM were key factors in this success.”

As you can see from this example, the job seeker has included specific technical points of interest, has used facts, as well as example achievements that are specifically aligned to the job being advertised.

Show Enthusiasm and Cultural Fit

Employers want to hire individuals who are not only qualified but also enthusiastic about the role and a good cultural fit for the company. Show your enthusiasm and explain why you want to work for this particular company.

Example: “I have long admired ABC Corporation’s commitment to sustainability and innovation. Your recent initiative to reduce carbon emissions by 20% is particularly inspiring, and I would love to contribute to such impactful projects.”

Use Professional and Engaging Language

Try to write the cover letter as if you are speaking to the person directly and responding to their specific questions. Avoid rambling, and make sure that the content is formal yet also engaging, maintaining a positive tone throughout.

Example: “Your team’s dedication to excellence resonates with my own professional values, and I am eager to bring my strategic thinking and collaborative spirit to your dynamic work environment.”

Cover Letter Example

Use Bullet Points in the Body of the Cover Letter

Whilst content is a great thing, too many paragraphs can often become arduous to read and can quickly lose the reader’s attention. Therefore, using bullet points in a cover letter is a great way to highlight specific areas of information whilst complementing the structure of the cover letter. Remember: Job boards such as SEEK.com.au have hundreds of applicants per job, so you need to stand out.

Sample Cover Letter

Mrs. J. Smith
ABC Construction Sydney, NSW


Dear Mrs. Smith,

Re: Marketing Manager

Having been in the engineering and construction sector for more than 10 years and having worked for one of your competitors, Johnson Construction & DBD Engineering, I have always admired your business and your brand reputation in the market.

From the job you have advertised, I can clearly see that you are looking to expand your markets across infrastructure and services. This is a market that I’m very familiar with, as during my time at Johnson Construction I helped the business achieve significant growth in the revenue pipeline, adding over £10 million in new contracts in less than three months. I spearheaded a digital marketing campaign that increased online media engagement by 150% within six months. My ability to analyse market trends and competitor behaviour, combined with my creativity in content creation, played a crucial role in this achievement.

At DBD Engineering, I played a key role in integrating Salesforce CRM as the primary platform for managing campaign delivery and growing sales pipelines. From my research, I understand that you have recently integrated Salesforce, so I know that I can add value in this area, especially in leveraging the software to manage risk and opportunity, as well as to provide expert insight and reporting for your project team.

Your recent initiative to acquire XMV Construction particularly caught my interest, and I would be excited to be part of this new journey. I have a range of skills and experience that includes:

  • 10 years of experience in the engineering construction sector
  • A deep knowledge of your markets including infrastructure services
  • Expertise in digital marketing management and online engagement
  • Skilled in the utilisation of Salesforce
  • Growing sales pipelines and driving opportunity
  • Leading and supervising teams of up to 8 staff  

I have attached my CV for your review. Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how my background, skills, and passions can contribute to the ongoing success of ABC Corporation.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

Final Tips for a Standout Cover Letter

  • Be Authentic: Let your personality shine through. Authenticity makes your cover letter more relatable and memorable.
  • Be Concise: Keep your cover letter to one page. Employers appreciate brevity.
  • Be Positive: Maintain an optimistic tone. Highlight what you can bring to the role rather than what you’re seeking to gain.
  • Follow Instructions: Adhere to any specific instructions in the job posting regarding the format or content of your cover letter.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Do recruiters and employers still read cover letters?

Yes, a large proportion of employers and recruiters will open and read cover letters. However, they may switch off after just a few seconds if they can't instantly find the information they are looking for or if the content doesn't immediately grab their interest.

How can I make my cover letter stand out?

Your cover letter should be relevant, on point, and speak directly to the reader as if you are their ideal candidate. Start from scratch for each job application, tailor the content to the specific role and company, and highlight your most relevant experiences and skills.

Should I use a template for my cover letter?

While templates can provide a useful starting point, it's crucial to personalise each cover letter for the specific job and company. Recruiters can easily spot a cookie-cutter cover letter that has been used for multiple applications. Plus, if you use a template, you'll likely get lazy. 90% of the content needs to be personalised for each role.

What should I research about the company before writing my cover letter?

Research the company's values, culture, recent news, social media profiles, products, services, and industry positioning. Use this information to tailor your cover letter and show that you understand and are enthusiastic about the company.

How should I start my cover letter?

Start with a strong and customised opening that quickly grabs the reader's interest. Avoid bland and generic statements. Mention specific details about the role and how your background makes you a perfect fit.

How can I highlight my relevant experience and skills effectively?

Focus on achievements that are directly related to the job requirements. Use quantifiable examples to demonstrate your success in previous roles. Avoid covering every aspect of your career history; instead, align your experiences with the job description.

How can I show enthusiasm and cultural fit in my cover letter?

Express genuine excitement about the company and the role. Mention specific initiatives or values of the company that resonate with you. Explain why you want to work for this particular organisation and how you can contribute to its success.

What tone should I use in my cover letter?

Use professional yet engaging language. Write as if you are speaking to the person directly and responding to their specific questions. Maintain a positive and optimistic tone throughout the letter.

Should I use bullet points in my cover letter?

Yes, using bullet points can make your cover letter easier to read and highlight specific areas of information effectively. This helps in breaking up large paragraphs and drawing attention to key points.

How long should my cover letter be?

Ideally, a cover letter should be no more than one page. If your cover letter is longer, take a break and revisit it with a focus on highlighting only the most relevant information.

What should I include in my closing paragraph?

In the closing paragraph, summarise your key points, express your enthusiasm for the role, and mention that you have attached your CV for further review. Thank the reader for considering your application and state that you look forward to the opportunity to discuss your application further.

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