A cover letter is a brief document, no longer than a page, that accompanies your CV when you put in an application for a job. While your CV is normally more exhaustive, the point of a cover letter is to showcase your key skills for the job, and get across a sense of your personality. Some positions will receive hundreds or perhaps even thousands of applications for a single opening, so it’s essential that your cover letter is tailored to stand out among the crowd.
When looking to write a cover letter for a particular position, you want to have the job description handy, as it will let you know which qualities are most important to the company. You should aim to touch upon all of these qualities in your cover letter, without it looking like a tick box exercise. Researching the company itself will help you shape your cover letter to the culture of the organisation you are applying to - if it’s a more creative company you might take more risks with your writing, but if it’s more orthodox you may choose to keep it traditional.
Example Company Ltd appeals to me because of its history of innovation, going back to the work of its founding director in the 1980s.
Spark interest with your opening
The person reading your cover letter has likely read tens if not hundreds before - if you want to convince them that yours is special, you’re best off doing this within the first few sentences, before their interest wanes. Many people begin cover letters with a generic line noting which job they’re applying for, and where they saw it. A more interesting way to open is to skip to the punch - what interests you about the position and what would bring to it, all in the space of a sentence. Keep it direct and fast-moving.
I’m a recent computer science graduate looking to test my highly awarded prowess in a dynamic competitive environment, and this position looks perfect for me.
Highlighting soft skills with stories
Narrative is a powerful tool in the hands of good writers, and this includes when applying for jobs. Your cover letter is about connecting the dots between the job requirements, your experiences, and the skills that they’ve given you. Including stories about your previous experiences of work, and times when you’ve had to push yourself to deliver, is a great way to make your skills seem more credible than if you just stated them outright.
When doing this, make sure to start with the situation, the characters who make up this miniature story, then move to what action you took, and what the outcome of it was. This applies as much to your direct job experience, as to any relevant extra-curricular activities you’ve been working on.
For three summers I worked as a children’s reading coordinator at the local library. While there I saw that many children were getting discouraged while reading their first book, so I modified the program to include rewards for getting halfway through as well as finishing it. After implementing this, the number of children dropping out during their first book was cut in half.
Emphasise the value you bring
A place where your initial research can really help you stand out is in identifying specifically where you can bring value to the organisation. Unless you’re able to find out something company specific online, this can focus on challenges that the sector as a whole is experiencing right now, and how your skills can be of use to the company in light of this.
As Human Resources manager in my last position, I adapted quickly to video-conferencing tools and remote working, to ensure that the company stayed connected and productive during the turbulent early months of 2020.
We hope you’ve found this article on how best to show your skills off in your cover letter useful. If you have, be sure to keep up with inploi’s community page, for more tips on how best to move through the world of work.