If you’re not 100% sure whether writing a cover letter is worth your time, here’s some food for thought. 83% of recruiters say that, although not absolutely necessary, a compelling cover letter gives you the opportunity to showcase your commercial value.
In fact, not only do most hiring managers find cover letters crucial to their hiring decisions, as many as 64% of HR professionals will interview a candidate based on a strong cover letter – even if they think their resume isn’t strong enough.
With this in mind, I’m going to show you how to write a cover letter that helps you stand out in a crowded job market and amplifies your value to your potential employer.
The Basics Of A Great Cover Letter.
Your cover letter has to be both concise and compelling. The ideal length is between 250-350 words and at most, a page. And yes, you need to tailor it for every role that you apply for.
Keep the design and format simple and in sync with your resume (related: my guide to writing a great resume). This will reinforce your personal brand and help hiring managers recognise your application.
Include your name, title, email address and mobile phone number. Don’t worry about a physical address or a landline.
Also, avoid using generic salutations such as ‘To whom it may concern’. Use the name of the recruiter or hiring manager – or simply delete the salutation if a name isn’t listed in the job ad.
Finally, include the role you are applying for. (Pro tip: there is no need to say where you originally saw the job listing – this is all tracked online).
The Structure Of An Effective Cover Letter.
A well-written cover letter is typically comprised of three or four paragraphs.
The first paragraph must capture the attention of a hiring manager. Ideally, it is where you combine your skills and experience in a way that demonstrates how you can solve a specific business problem. Refer back to the job ad – what is the role’s overarching mandate? How can you help the employer achieve this mandate?
‘I am an executive leader with 20+ years’ experience delivering rapid profitability uplifts in challenged markets. With a background in business development and operations, I optimise P&L outcomes by meeting ambitious revenue targets whilst maximising efficiencies through robust operational discipline.’
The middle paragraph expands on the first paragraph, confirming your suitability for the role. If you’re a manager, a team leader or an executive, this should include your unique approach to leadership and how this contributes to business success.
‘Passionate about data, I bring a track record establishing reporting frameworks that provide transparency over performance and enhance decision-making. Never content with the status quo, I build cultures of innovation where teams can ideate and test new ideas, helping businesses stay ahead of the curve.’
Next, it’s time to prove that you are a strong candidate for the role by listing 5 of your most notable achievements. These should directly align with the role you are applying for and offer tangible evidence of your capabilities.
‘Proven success in business transformation, e.g. leading a turnaround of XYZ from a loss to a $2M profit through product innovation, creating new revenue streams in mature markets.’
‘Champions data & analytics to enhance decision-making, demonstrated by deploying data visualisation software to provide real-time analytics for executives and board members.’
Finally, wrap up your cover letter by including any relevant qualifications, and thank the hiring manager for the opportunity.
Maximise The Impact Of Your Cover Letter.
To create a cover letter that pump up your value even more, follow the following tips and tricks.
Make it personal, but professional.
A good cover letter provides a mixture of your personality and your USP. Storytelling is still one of the best ways to capture the attention of a busy recruiter. If you have a unique story relevant to the role that you are applying for, do your best to subtly weave it in. But remember, it needs to be sincere and authentic.
Prove you’ve done your research.
Demonstrate that you’re serious about the role. Take the time to understand the employer’s current challenges, then subtly tailor the content of your cover letter to your discoveries.
Don’t make it all about you.
Although a cover letter is a marketing exercise, it is not a place to demonstrate how great you are. Instead, it is a tool you use to highlight what you can do for the employer within the context of the role. Be explicit in how your skills and experience can help the company achieve its objectives, and you will attract the right kind of attention.
Don’t rehash your resume.
A cover letter should complement, not parrot your resume. To avoid repeating the same information in two places, create a narrative that brings your professional story to life in a succinct, yet compelling way.
That’s all for today, folks. Go unleash your amazing cover letters on the world, and all the best in your job search.