A Guide on How to Write a Standout Cover Letter in 2023
Writing a cover letter is one of the most challenging aspects of the job-seeking process. Many people find writing a cover letter to be a daunting task, especially since there are so many variables involved.
How to start a cover letter? What should your cover letter structure look like? What to include in a cover letter? How to end a cover letter? There are so many different answers to these questions on the internet that you don’t know what is right.
In a market that is flooded with CVs and cover letters, it’s essential to ensure you have all the basics right. Regardless of the job you’re applying for, this guide on how to write a standout cover letter will answer all questions you may have about crafting your cover letter.
What is a cover letter, and why is it important?
A cover letter is a letter you send to the recruiter outlining why you are the best person for the position. It’s intended to go along with a job application and must sell your relevant skills, character traits, and prior experiences to show you are the ideal candidate for the position.
A cover letter is the best way for job seekers to connect their skills and experiences and the job role they’re applying for. The primary focus of a cover letter should be how you will add more value to the organisation. Therefore, it’s critical for job seekers to tailor their cover letter for each position and organisation they apply to.
The primary purpose of crafting a good cover letter is to sell yourself. However, a cover letter alone will not get you an interview. So, why do you need a cover letter?
It’s the job of a cover letter to get the hiring manager to check out your CV. And a well-crafted CV and cover letter play a significant role in getting the hiring manager to call you in for an interview.
Why do you need to write a cover letter?
There are three significant reasons why writing a cover letter is critical while applying for a job.
Hiring managers often get hundreds of applications for a single position. Additionally, thanks to years of working in the recruitment sector, hiring managers can quickly scan a CV and determine whether a candidate is worth their time.
So why do they request a cover letter in the first place?
A cover letter helps you build a brand around your candidacy. It allows you the chance to stand out from the other candidates and promote yourself for a particular job.
It also showcases that you’re motivated to work for a company. If you disregard a recruiter’s request to share a cover letter, it will indicate disinterest on the candidate’s side. Even if you’re the perfect candidate, you could be passed over for someone who read the job advert carefully and did include a cover letter.
The third reason is that it’s an excellent opportunity to show off your writing skills – so don’t make grammatical, punctuation, or spelling errors in your cover letter.
Cover letters with bad grammar, spelling mistakes, or irrelevant or long paragraphs don’t make a good first impression. You need to craft a good cover letter to get the chance to showcase why you’d be a good fit for the role.
A cover letter also gives you the ability to elaborate on things that you typically don’t include in your CV. For instance, you can use the cover letter to explain a gap in your employment or your intention to move to a different city.
A well-crafted cover letter that is clear, concise, and to the point significantly increases your chances of landing an interview.
How long should your cover letter be?
You should write a succinct cover letter consisting of 3 to 4 short paragraphs.
A cover letter should ideally be around half a page, a maximum of three-quarters. Instead of focusing on the word count, simply aim for half a page with a font size of 10 or 12.
Structure of a cover letter
As mentioned in the previous section, it’s a good idea to keep the cover letter short with three or four distinct sections.
Address the recruitment manager directly in the cover letter and talk about who you are, why you’ve applied for the position, and perhaps how you came across the vacancy within the introduction.
The body of your cover letter should showcase how your skills and qualifications match what the company is looking for.
Why are you interested in this particular job position? Why would you fit in well with the company culture? How will your skills and qualifications add value to the company? Are there any issues you believe you can help them with?
Make sure to convey that you have the necessary knowledge and experience, but avoid reiterating your CV’s list of accomplishments and experience in full. Only include aspects that the company has asked for within the job posting.
One good tactic is to list the qualifications they’re asking for in the job posting and use sub-bullets to explain how your qualifications match what they’re looking for.
Another aspect you should avoid mentioning in your cover letter is why you left your last job. If you believe it is something you need the hiring manager to know about, then you can mention it during your interview.
It’s critical that your cover letter is not just a generalised template. The hiring manager should feel like you’ve crafted a letter specifically for the company, and one great way to do this is by leaning on the information they’ve shared with you in the job advert.
How to write a cover letter hiring managers will love
- Optimise your cover letter for each job
Cover letters are like a personalised sales pitch for job seekers. Therefore, it’s critical that you should customise your cover letter for every single job application.
Recruiters are interested in learning how you can benefit the organisation and what makes you a good fit. You should use your cover letter as an opportunity to introduce yourself to the hiring manager and explain why you are the ideal candidate for the position.
Reviewing the job description and the position requirements is the first step. Does the job description place more emphasis on analytical or problem-solving abilities? Do they have a minimum requirement for years of experience in a certain functional area? While reviewing, take note of key phrases or highlight sections that you believe show high importance.
Next, research the company. Is the organisation big or small? What can you learn about their culture from their website? Do they value cross-disciplinary collaboration?
While writing a cover letter, you should take care to match your expertise to the position’s requirements. Include substantial achievement or skill statements within your cover letter.
Take care to showcase your brand while writing a cover letter. What are your strengths? Have you managed situations like what the job role needs in the past? Include things that will help distinguish you from other candidates.
- Match your cover letter to your CV
One effective strategy is to format your cover letter similarly to how you format your CV. Utilising the same font and colours is a straightforward method. You can also consider carrying over a header from your CV onto your cover letter.
Your job application will appear more unified and well-thought-out if it has a consistent look and feel. It gives the hiring manager the impression that you are organised and pay attention to details.
- Include your contact information
People usually skip including their contact information within their cover letters, which is a mistake. Make the recruiter’s life easy by including your contact information in your cover letter.
Here are details you should want to include within your cover letter.
- Your name
- Your pronouns (optional)
- Your location
- Your email address (please ensure it’s a professional email)
- Your contact number (optional)
- Link to your personal website, portfolio, or LinkedIn profile
Here’s what your cover letter header might look like:
Rexburg, Idaho, United States
If you’re applying for a job role via email and include the cover letter in the email, you can have your contact info below your signature at the end of the email.
Burlington, Vermont, United States
Note: You can forgo including the email address in this situation.
- Don’t use generic salutations.
For cover letters, it’s a good idea to address them directly to the recruiter. Unless you’re sure that the company culture is more laidback, simply go with the recruiter’s first and last name.
While most people include the Mr. or Ms. title, only do it if you’re sure about their pronouns after doing a bit more research on the hiring manager on social media, especially LinkedIn. Avoid addressing your cover letter with Miss or Mrs. It’s always better to drop the title to avoid mistakenly misgendering the hiring manager.
Don’t use generic salutations like “Dear Sir/Madam” or “To Whom it May Concern.”
Your cover letter is probably the first chance for you to create a good impression; therefore, do your research and ensure that it shows while writing your cover letter.
It may happen that you haven’t been able to find the name of the hiring manager even after hours of researching online. In this situation, simply address the cover letter to the department’s head for the job you’re applying for.
- Strong opening paragraph
Hiring managers have probably read hundreds of cover letters that start with, “Your job posting on Joss Search prompted me to…” or “I’m excited to apply for the position of…”
Therefore, it’s crucial to craft an opening paragraph that is strong, creative, and still relevant to the position you’re applying for. Don’t include irrelevant accomplishments (no matter how big) or anecdotes that never connect to the position you’re applying for.
It’s your opening paragraph that will encourage the hiring manager to keep reading. Your opening paragraph is the best place to introduce your “why” within the cover letter. You can also do a bit more research about the company and include reasons why you decided to apply for a position in their particular organisation.
Have you used their products or services for a long time? Do you have extensive experience working with the issues they’re trying to solve? Or maybe you love their company culture or brand voice?
You can also start with your passion and how they relate to the job role you’re applying for. This shows the hiring manager that you actually enjoy what you’re doing and are motivated enough by the subject matter to stick to the job.
“I’m always the one my friends come to for Instagram captions and sassy birthday card wishes, and recently, I decided it was time I got paid for it. That’s the reason I got into the copywriting industry and am excited about the open Digital Marketing Copywriter position at [Company]…”
“I’ve always been compared with Monica from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. because of my obsession with organisation. It got me thinking — a career where I can use my organisational skills would be my absolute dream. Which is how I applied for my first Executive Assistant job role X years ago…”
A snappy first paragraph will showcase your excitement for the job role and highlight your passion and accomplishments.
Now that you have all the information you require to write a cover letter, let’s examine a few situations in which you don’t need to send one.
When not to send a cover letter?
There are a few scenarios where you don’t need to send a cover letter while submitting job applications.
Larger organisations and agencies typically expect a cover letter even when they haven’t specifically asked for one.
You don’t need to send a cover letter, though, if you’re applying online through a website that requires you to fill out your information in a step-by-step process, and you never get asked for a cover letter.
Another instance is when the job description specifically states that they only require you to submit your CV. In this case, you don’t need to worry about sending a cover letter.
Your cover letter is a tool that acts as a personalised sales pitch where you explain why you’re the best person for the position. Understanding how to write a cover letter is the first step toward landing a job interview.
In this guide on how to write a standout cover letter, we’ve covered everything you need to know about crafting a standout cover letter in 2022. You can follow the tips we’ve shared in this guide while writing your cover letter and apply for job roles in top private equity and alternative investment firms.
You can take a look at our live vacancies or chat with our friendly consultants about your upcoming career steps. We’re waiting to help on 020 3096 7050 and firstname.lastname@example.org.