How to Write a Cover Letter in Few Steps [+2 Examples] | Writing Guide
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Cover letter

How to Write a Cover Letter in Few Steps [+2 Examples] | Writing Guide

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Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

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Joanna Ryś

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With all the work you probably put into creating or updating your résumé, you might have forgotten about the importance of the cover letter. A good cover letter is like the icing on the cake, it’s what really brings all of the information on your résumé together and helps the recruiter get to know you better.

Not sure how to go about writing one? Don’t worry.

How to Write a Cover Letter in Few Simple Steps
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In this guide, I’ll walk you through the whole cover letter writing process, step by step.

You’ll find out:

  • how to prep before you actually sit down to write,
  • how to organize the different parts of your letter
  • and what common mistakes you should avoid.

By the time we get to the end of this guide, your cover letter is going to be freaking flawless.

Why you should write a cover letter?

For starters, many job offers explicitly ask for one, so it goes without saying that you should provide one in that case. But even if you have not been asked to submit a cover letter, you still should, for several reasons.

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Firstly, as I mentioned briefly above, a cover letter is a chance for the recruiter to get to know what kind of person you are a little better. It is also a great chance to highlight the personality traits you have that make you right for the job.

Secondly, sending a cover letter is a good way to show the recruiter that you care about the job enough to spend some extra time introducing yourself. And an extra chance to make a good impression is nothing to be sneezed at!

I take it you’re convinced. So let’s get started on the specifics!

How to prepare before you start writing cover letter

Cover letters require the inclusion of some pretty specific information, and it would be wise to collect it before you start writing. That way, nothing will be distracting you once you actually roll up your sleeves and get down to writing.

A good cover letter goes beyond the requirements listed in the job description — it should show the recruiter who you are. But to get personal, you need to know something about the company, too.

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Information you will want to have handy when you start writing includes:

1️⃣ Who you will be writing to

Starting any letter with “To whom it may concern”  is cold and indifferent, and makes it look like you just didn’t care enough to personalize. There are several ways to find out who will be reading your letter —  take LinkedIn, for instance. Or the company’s own “About Us” section.

Starting your cover letter with “Dear Mr. Green” is sure to make a good impression immediately. And if specific information is somehow completely unavailable, “Dear X Team” will sound pretty good, too.

2️⃣ What exactly the position entails

This might seem like a no-brainer, but once again, it’s all about personalization. Listing specific reasons why you would be a good fit for the position, as well as the team and company itself is sure to get much more attention than tired clichés about being a team player and a hard worker.

3️⃣ Who the company’s customers and competition are

Say it with me: PERSONALIZATION! The more you know about whom the company provides services to, the more the recruiter will be convinced that you can meet their needs.

Analyzing the company’s competition, on the other hand, shows that you know about the market in general, and such knowledge is always a valuable asset in business.

Cover letter: How to structure it and what to include
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Cover letter: How to structure it and what to include

1️⃣ The professional, informative header

This section is actually made up of two parts: the one containing:

Your contact details.
The person reading your cover letter needs to know who they are talking to, so your header should contain your e-mail address and phone number, as well as other information, such as the link to your LinkedIn profile or Skype ID. 

Anita Gonzalez
Chicago, IL
(201) 233-4656
anita.gonzalez86@gmaill.com
linkedin.com/anita.gonzalez86

The hiring manager’s details.
This means, of course, their name, but also their position and the company address.

To:
Jeff Watkins
Human Resources Manager
Dream IT Creative Agency
455 Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL
4 January, 2020

2️⃣ The greeting

As I mentioned above, opening your cover letter by addressing the recruiter by name is a good start.

Dear Jeff,

3️⃣ The catchy first paragraph

I’ve mentioned before how, statistically speaking, you have only 6(!) seconds to get a recruiter’s attention with your résumé. Recruiters might spend a bit more time on your cover letter, but grabbing their attention is still an absolute priority to make sure your application doesn’t end up in the trash. 

And that’s what the first paragraph is for. 

Combine a general description of your more impressive achievements in your current or past jobs with an enthusiasm for the company you are applying to. This is the perfect cocktail to get a hiring manager’s attention and keep it.

With formal backgrounds and extensive experience in both Search Engine Marketing and Graphic Design, I believe I would be the perfect addition to your Marketing team. Just last year, an ad I helped create for my current employer achieved a record 280,000 shares on Facebook and won the prestigious Web Marketing Association’s Best Online Ad Award.

4️⃣ The informative second paragraph

This is where you can get into some more detail about how you achieved the things you mentioned in the first paragraph. Don’t toot your own horn too much, but make sure whoever is reading understands you have what it takes to get the job done.

After working in the field of online marketing for almost a decade, I have expert knowledge of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, as well as UI/UX design, Typography and HTML – check out my resumé for a list of my certificates. I also have extensive experience planning both low- and high-budget projects that have resulted in my clients’ online visibility increasing by up to 78%.

5️⃣ The third paragraph that ties it all together

Now, time for the main course. You’ve already talked about your experience and enthusiasm. Now it’s time to show how those things will allow you to excel at the job you are applying for. You can also mention how getting this position would help you develop professionally.

After reading your blog entry on your planned projects for 2020, I am both impressed and excited at the prospect of being a part of them. My expertise, experience and enthusiasm for your agency would all be big assets to your company’s marketing team. For my part, working at Dream IT would be an amazing opportunity to develop professionally with one of the most innovative agencies in the country.

6️⃣ The closing paragraph and call to action

A good ending is just as important as a good beginning. Luckily, all the most important things you had to say have already been said, so all you have left to do is invite them to get in touch…without sounding too needy. Desperation is never attractive, no matter the situation.

Let the person reading your cover letter know that you are grateful for their time and ready to have a talk about the position. Make sure you are clear on how you would prefer to have that talk — by phone, Skype, or maybe in person?

I’d love to tell you more about my ideas for your upcoming projects, so please do not hesitate to give me a call. I’d also be happy to come by your office anytime to discuss them.

7️⃣ The polite, concise closing

Something as simple as,

“Sincerely, <your name and surname>”
or
“Best/kind regards, <your name and surname>” 

should work just fine.

That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Cover letter different styles for different professions

Just like jobs and the qualifications needed for them differ, so too do the cover letters you send to get those jobs.

And while the general cover letter structure stays pretty much the same, there are some differences between one written to a trendy tech company and one written to a rather traditional law firm.

You want to show the recruiter you’d be a good fit, so take this chance to speak their language to do just that!

Cover letter different styles for different professions
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Because remember, your cover letter is supposed to take the qualifications you have and wrap them in a nice bow.

It’s supposed to show how the knowledge and skills listed on your résumé make YOU the perfect fit for that position, and also how WHO YOU ARE will contribute to the company.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few different kinds of companies like:

Trendy tech startups and creative companies

The company culture at tech and creative companies these days tends to be rather laid back and casual, so opening by addressing the hiring manager by their first name could be perfectly appropriate.

Trendy tech startups and creative companies
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Using the same kind of language throughout your cover letter could be fine as well, PROVIDED the company itself uses that writing style when referring to itself and its employees.

The more progressive the company, the more risks you can take with your cover letter.

Remember the research I advised you to do earlier on in this guide? This is where it would really come in handy.

Traditional law firms or large corporations

In such cases it would probably be safest to stick with more formal language, which includes addressing the recruiter as “Mr./Ms. <last name>” and continue in the same fashion.

Traditional law firms or large corporations
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Showing that you are on top of pop culture is rarely an asset worth mentioning when applying for a job as a lawyer or financial advisor.

Remember, knowing your audience is half of success.

Small local business

As I mentioned before, make sure you adapt your writing style to the company culture.

But applying for a job at a small local business also means you can bring up your work or achievements in the local community. Maybe you volunteered your time at local charity organizations or helped organize community festivals or other events?

Any of these things can attest to the fact that you are a socially responsible, involved person who can devote time to things both of you care about.

Examples: what a good cover letter should be like
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Examples: what a good cover letter should be like

Still not entirely sure what a cover letter that will take you places looks like? Take a look at the examples below to get a real feel for what we’ve been talking about for the last few sections.

A cover letter for a creative company:

Anita Gonzalez
Chicago, IL
(201) 233-4656

anita.gonzalez86@gmaill.com
linkedin.com/anita.gonzalez86

To:
Jeff Watkins
Human Resources Manager
Dream IT Creative Agency
455 Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL
4 January, 2020

Dear Jeff,

With formal backgrounds and extensive experience in both Search Engine Marketing and Graphic Design, I believe I would be the perfect addition to your Marketing team. Just last year, an ad I helped create for my current employer achieved a record 280,000 shares on Facebook and won the prestigious Web Marketing Association’s Best Online Ad Award.

After working in the field of online marketing for almost a decade, I have expert knowledge of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, as well as UI/UX design, Typography and HTML – check out my resumé for a list of my certificates. I also have extensive experience planning both low- and high-budget projects that have resulted in my clients’ online visibility increasing by up to 78%.

After reading your blog entry on your planned projects for 2020, I am both impressed and excited at the prospect of being a part of them. My expertise, experience and enthusiasm for your agency would all be big assets to your company’s marketing team. For my part, working at Dream IT would be an amazing opportunity to develop professionally with one of the most innovative agencies in the country.

I’d love to tell you more about my ideas for your upcoming projects, so please do not hesitate to give me a call. I’d also be happy to come by your office anytime to discuss them.

Thank you for your time.

A cover letter for a law firm:

James Black
Boston, MA
(230) 766-4234

james.black80@gmail.com
linkedin.com/james.black80

Julianne Clarkson
Human Resources Manager
McKinsey & Associates Law Firm
8130 Maple Avenue
Boston, MA
6 June, 2020

Dear Ms. Clarkson,

Your advertisement for the position of Junior Legal Advisor at your firm captured my interest the moment I saw it.

Since earning my law degree at the University of Massachusetts and passing the Massachusetts State Bar Exam 2 years ago, I have worked numerous cases as a licensed attorney with Bart & Sons. My biggest success thus far was assisting in the defense of a well-known furniture producer from a class action lawsuit that had the potential to bankrupt the company.

In my current job, I have provided assistance in activities such as the conduction of legal research, the linking of parts of a case to produce a complete presentation, and the collection of legal documents. I am adept in case preparation, client consultation and courtroom litigation, and all of my skills are built on a solid academic background.

Though I am grateful for the opportunities Bart & Sons have afforded me, I am seeking to transition to a larger firm with a more diverse case portfolio, where I feel my skills and passion for consumer law would be put to more extensive use.

Please review my resumé for details on my expertise and other achievements. I look forward to elaborating how my specific skills and abilities can benefit your firm. You can contact me using the telephone number and e-mail address listed above.

Thank you for your time.

Cover letter — Do’s and Don’ts

So your cover letter is written and ready to send. Great! Before you send it though, make sure you take a look at this list of do’s and don’ts to make sure it presents you in the best light possible.

Cover letter — Do’s and Don’ts
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Do:

  • Have a strong opening statement
    Staring with something like, “Hello, my name is…” is banal and obvious —  and you just put your name in the header anyway. Make sure you get the recruiter’s attention right off the bat with something interesting and relevant.
  • Proofread!
    I can’t emphasize this enough. No matter how experienced and good at your job you are, typos will manage to make you look very unprofessional. So do a spellcheck and read through your cover letter before you send it —  or better yet, have someone do it for you.
  • Provide relevant information
    Make sure the skills and experience you describe are things that would matter in the position you are applying for. Take advantage of the space you have to show why you are the right person for that particular position, not unsolicited details on a part-time job you had in high school.

Don’t:

  • Brag too much
    Of course your cover letter is about your skills, but it is more about how those skills can contribute to the company. Going on and on about yourself with sentences like “I am really good at” sounds a little too self-centered and self-congratulatory. Let your skills and experience speak for themselves and keep the bragging to yourself. 
  • Ramble on for pages
    The ideal cover letter will all fit on one page, with many hiring managers agreeing that somewhere around 300 words is just right. Recruiters want to get to know you a little before inviting you in for an interview, not read entire essays. Any further details they want to know can be discussed during the interview. 
  • Make jokes
    Even if they would be funny told in person, jokes can fall completely flat on paper. Not to mention that humor is very subjective, so you could end up making a joke the recruiter finds unfunny, or worse yet, downright offensive. 
  • Go overboard with the flattery
    Not only is flattery a waste of space, but it is also painfully obvious to any experienced hiring manager. Of course, you should mention why you want to work for the organization, but without overdoing it in a way that makes you sound insincere. Any compliments should be based on fact and serve a purpose outside of just buttering the recruiter up.
  • Be too general
    Sentences like, “I’d be great for this job because I have significant experience in several similar positions” don’t really say much of anything. So you worked in a similar position before — okay, and? What did you achieve? What lessons did you learn there that you can apply in the future?
  • Mention other jobs you are gunning for
    You probably are applying to several different companies. Bringing that up in your cover letter, however, makes it seem as though you are trying to put pressure on the recruiter, and nobody likes that feeling. Not to mention you are trying to convince the recruiter that you really want this particular job, and not just any job you can get.

Whew, that turned out to be another doozy of a guide. Glad to see you’re still here! And I think we can both agree it was more than worth it — now you know how to write a great cover letter to go with your great résumé.

Time to get writing!

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Joanna Ryś
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Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

linkedintwitter
Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

Joanna has 8 years of experience in the recruitment industry, and currently works as the Chief Strategist for Sourcing in the EMEA area at HAYS. Microsoft, Rolls Royce Aerospace, Abbott, AB Inbev are several companies from the...portfolio of clients with whom it has cooperated, and its tasks include defining strategies for obtaining candidates in Europe, independent management of recruitment tools, monitoring the rate of return on investment, implementing initiatives from the area of Employer Branding into processes recruitment and data analysis. Sharing knowledge and discussions about working with candidates is her passion, which is why she eagerly creates new training programs, conducts postgraduate classes, organizes workshops with students of Krakow universities, employees of her company and free students from various social organizations. Passionate about computer games and socioeconomic issues.