As a counterpart to more functional resumes, cover letters provide an opportunity for applicants to convince hiring managers of their point of difference and why they are the perfect fit for the role.
Cover letters, combined with the skills and experience outlined in resumes can go a long way in giving hiring managers a full picture of an applicant and their capabilities.
Cover letters tell your story and are essential when applying for many jobs, and even when they are not required they are an excellent idea as they show you are willing to do your research and put in the effort for the job.
A good cover letter can get you the interview, but a poorly executed letter can make you seem unprofessional and lead to an otherwise strong resume being thrown in the discard pile.
If you’re looking to learn how to write a fantastic cover letter that will convince a hiring manager you are right for the job then read on below for our tips on how to write and format a cover letter.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is essentially your opportunity to really sell yourself and give recruiters an understanding of who you are as a professional. A good cover letter can really strengthen your job application and put you over the line, but submitting a poor one can hurt your chances at an interview.
Cover letters should pair well with your resume and should be highly targeted documents – you need to base your cover letter or the values of the organisation you are applying for and the specific requirements of the role you are going for.
This is your chance to convince the recruiter that you would be a good fit in the role and at the company.
A cover letter should be used to introduce yourself, make a case for your suitability for the role, show your passion and desire for the role and fill in any information that might be missing in your resume. The most powerful cover letters give recruiters a call to action so that they feel compelled to pick up the phone and get you in for an interview.
What to include in a cover letter?
There are a few basic components to a cover letter which should include contact details, an introduction, a paragraph to sell yourself, a paragraph explaining how you fit into your specific company, an action paragraph and a sign off.
Read on below for our guide to writing each paragraph:
It’s important that it is readily apparent that the cover letter belongs to you and that the recruiter can find your contact information, you may miss out on a job opportunity if they have to search for your information.
The contact information section should be included at the top left of your cover letter and include your name, address, email, phone number and social media information. You should also include a date and the information of the hiring manager and company so that it is clear who the letter is intended for.
Your introductory paragraph is an opportunity to introduce yourself to the hiring manager, if you want to stand out then ensure you’ve done your research and address yourself directly to the hiring manager. This extra bit of effort means you can avoid the awkward ‘To whom it may concern’ and you will stand out to the company for your attention to detail.
The introductory paragraph should include information about how you found out about the opportunity and why you are applying, as well as some basic information about yourself such as your educational background, professional industry or goals.
This paragraph is your chance to shine, this is your place to tell the hiring manager all about you and what makes you special. This paragraph should include information about your skills and experience and how you meet the requirements for the job.
This paragraph should be persuasive and convey a sense of your personality and professional motivations. This will give the hiring manager and idea of if you are a good cultural fit for the company and if you meet their search criteria for the job.
You should be sure to include the actual criteria mention in the job listing in this section, this is important to show that you have both carefully read the criteria as well as ensuring your application does not slip through the cracks in automated systems.
How do you fit in?
For this paragraph it is important to thoroughly research the company and make a case for how you will benefit the company and contribute to its future.
You should be looking to gather information about the goals and direction of the company, their specific values, organisational structure, leadership and position within the industry and use this information to tell a story about why you are the perfect candidate for the company.
There are a lot of good candidates out there, but the ones who get hired know their stuff when it comes to their chosen company and can convince the hiring manager that there is nobody more perfect for the role.
You should conclude your cover letter with a convincing call-to-action that will encourage the hiring manager to give you a call and get you in for an interview.
Your concluding paragraph should include a thank you for the potential opportunity and some information about your availability; you might also want to reiterate your contact details.
This is a good opportunity to leave a lasting impression and convey your interest in the role, so ensure that you get your sign off right and convey the right tone for the company and hiring manager.
Formatting your cover letter
There are a few things to consider when it comes to your cover letter when it comes to ensuring it both comes across as professional to the hiring manager, and makes it through application processing software without ending up in the discard pile.
Cover letter should usually be no more than a few paragraphs and should never be more than 1 page. Typically the more concise the better, a lengthy cover letter will not be read and you might miss out on a role because of it.
Make your letter punchy and to the point, highlight the need-to-know facts about you and your suitability for the role but don’t turn it into a novel, the hiring manager will not appreciate a long read.
Use a common font in black and at an easily legible size for hiring managers and application systems. Fancy fonts may come across as unprofessional and application reading software may be unable to scan it.
It is very important to carefully proofread and spellcheck your work. After reading it yourself it is a good idea to get a second pair of eyes on it to pick up any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes.
A cover letter that is poorly written will turn off a hiring manager, professional communication is very important in most roles and an inability to do that ahead of an interview will indicate a lack of attention to detail and professionalism to recruiters.