Part 5: ELEMENTS OF A WINNING COVER LETTER
A cover letter is the final piece of a puzzle when it comes to your job application. This, unfortunately, means that it doesn’t often get the same kind of attention as the other parts. Most job guides talk about the resume but fail to note the importance the humble cover letter could have.
But the cover letter is actually as important – if not more – than the other parts. First, it can sometimes be included in ATS and therefore, you need to ensure it passes the analysis of the software. But secondly, the hiring manager might never even look at your bulletproof resume if you haven’t started with a winning cover letter.
Remember, the cover letter is often the first thing the hiring manager reads. It’s the introduction to your application. If you fail to capture the interest of the hiring manager then, you probably won’t be able to catch it later.
In addition, the cover letter is crucial in terms of the current hiring funnel. Why? Because the cover letter allows you to differentiate yourself from the rest. Resumes all can look rather similar – you can’t really show that much personality in them. But in the cover letter, you get to really nail down why you’re the right person for the particular job.
So, how do you write a winning cover letter? What are the components that form a good cover letter that’ll help you gain a spot in those job interviews? In this section of the guide, we’ll explore six key elements of a winning cover letter. In the end, there’s also a template example you can use to create a solid cover letter to go with your applications.
INCLUDE CORRECT AND DETAILED CONTACT INFORMATION
The top of your cover letter should always include your contact information. When adding contact information, make sure to include the following details:
- Your name – include a title if you have one.
- Your address – include a full postal address.
- Your phone number – include both your mobile phone and a landline, if possible. You could include a work number, but make sure to mention it is a work number. If you know you are only available at certain times, then mention your call time preferences.
- Your e-mail address – again, you can include both personal and work address if you want.
In addition, you can also mention any social media handles you might have for professional use. This can especially good for digital cover letters as you can link directly to your profile.
It’s important the contact information is correct so make sure to double-check it before sending.
Here’s an example of a good contact detail outline:
123 High Street
45 CityTel: 123456 (work phone) & 987654 (mobile)
ADDRESS IT TO A HUMAN BEING
You then need to open your cover letter with a good start. Now, the main thing to remember is that a person will be reading it. In fact, you want to emphasize and focus on the actual person reading the cover letter and not write a broad opening line. In short, do not start with “To whom it may concern”. It should be your concern to know whom you are writing to.
What this means is the letter should always be addressed to the hiring manager. You might gasp in despair thinking you have no idea who it is. It’s a good idea to read the job posting carefully, as the information is often mentioned in it. If it isn’t, you have two options:
- Contact the company’s HR department and ask whom you shall address the job application to.
- Contact the recruitment agency and ask who shall be reviewing the application.
Be polite and explain you want to ensure you are addressing the right person. The company won’t mind this – it shows a level of professionalism and could actually work in your favor.
What does a good greeting look like in a cover letter? With the above in mind, you could start with something like these below examples:
- “Dear Ms Smith”
- “To Dr Smith”
While it’s important to address an actual human being, the real-world doesn’t always work like this. You might not be able to receive this information and you certainly don’t want to forget about applying for this little reason. In these occasions, go with these opening lines:
- “To the hiring personnel at ZYX”
- “Dear Hiring Manager”
GO STRAIGHT TO THE POINT – START BY ADDRESSING THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THE LETTER
You want to get straight to the point with your cover letter. The letter is not about changing pleasantries, talking about the weather or sharing stories about your job-hunt journey – it’s about introducing yourself and explaining why you want the role.
The first paragraph of your covering letter should be able to answer these questions:
- Who are you?
- Why are you writing the cover letter?
- Why are you the best person to apply for the job?
Essentially, you want to address those questions with three to four sentences. That’s it – it gives you the perfect start to your letter.
Let’s examine each point in more detail with example sentences:
It’s important to focus on making sure you emphasize your ability to add value to the company and your unique match for the role. So think carefully how you word your current job position or your degree – it doesn’t have to be the exact match, but more like the specific part of the degree or job that fits the new job role you are applying for.
As mentioned, you also want to immediately emphasize your ability to add value – why you are such a good fit and what the company would benefit from hiring you. In a sentence, you want to give the hiring manager a glimpse of the future.
As a technical note, you want to use a future tense here instead of the conditional verb. It gives you a more confident feel without being overly cocky.
OUTLINE YOUR EXPERTISE AND QUALIFICATIONS
After you’ve made the short introduction and unleashed your unique selling point for the manager to admire, you must delve deeper. It’s time to get more in-depth about your expertise, especially in terms of your fit for the particular position.
It’s important to show you understand what the company is looking for (research, research, research) and demonstrate with real examples from your past how you can provide this value. This can even include actual suggestions for the company about improvements or a new course of action.
You want to use similar language to the job posting and mention those few keywords that stood out. Relate these to your experience and qualifications in a few short sentences. Do this by focusing on these pointers:
- Mention any work experience and qualification that directly relates to the job. If you’re applying for a position of mentoring position but you’ve previously worked in a coffee shop, you don’t need to mention the job per se. Instead, you can mention how you helped train new baristas and this experience helped you develop your mentoring skills further.
- Focus on adding value. The achievements you mention should only be those that can add something to the firm you are applying for. If the company is looking to become a market leader, show how you can do this. If they care about the environment, show how you are able to improve sustainability and so on. Make sure you understand their vision and help them reach it faster.
Remember that your objective is not to rewrite the resume here or necessarily even summarize it – your objective is to show the hiring manager how you add value to the organization.
So, don’t emphasize your experience, education or skills other than to highlight how they would benefit the organization.
SUMMARIZE YOUR REASONS FOR BEING HIRED
In the final paragraphs, your focus is to simply summarize why you are the right pick. You want to use the keywords and in two sentences identify the unique selling point you have – your unique offering for the role.
Furthermore, you want to suggest an interview or a meeting – don’t just be passive and allow the hiring manager to make the call. Suggesting it doesn’t mean you get an opportunity but it shows confidence. When suggesting an interview, the key is to allow the company take the decisive decision. You don’t want to limit and give them a list of times when you can’t attend an interview.
In addition, you want to mention how they can reach you. If you are working and certain times are better for a phone call, then mention these politely.
Here are a few example sentences to consider:
- “I look forward to being interviewed at your earliest convenience.”
- “You can reach my from my telephone number XYZ the best between 12pm and 15pm.”
- “I will be happy to be interviewed any time during the next few weeks.”
- “Feel free to e-mail me or call me if you have any questions.”
In the final sentence, you want to thank the hiring manager for considering you for this position.
Check out these good endings to a cover letter:
- “Thank you for considering me for the position.”
- “Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity.”
KEEP IT SHORT
Look at your cover letter and make sure it is short. The hiring manager doesn’t want to spend minutes reading it – you want to be concise and short in your messaging.
What is short in terms of length? A winning cover letter is never more than a page (Word-document, 12 font). However, you want to aim to just reducing the cover letter to half a page. As the above has shown, you don’t need to include a lot of information to your document – so get to the point and make your message clear in a few sentences.
Talking of sentences, you need to keep your sentences clear and easy to read. You don’t need to show off any grammatical flexibility here. Just basic sentence structures with the right words will do. Optimise your use of the keywords and action words – previous sections have much more on these!
Of course, you want to make sure the information is correct and that there are no grammar errors in your text.
Finally, don’t add any images or charts to your covering letter. If you have something exciting to show, then do so as a separate document – the cover letter is not meant for sharing deeper thoughts about the job position.
AN EXAMPLE WINNING COVER LETTER
If you put the above information together, you get a template that might look something like this:
On August 16
Dear Mrs Smith,
My name is Jane and I’m working as sales manager at XYZ, overseeing a multi-million dollar client portfolio. I noticed on your company website you are looking for new client manager and felt passionate about applying for this position. My extensive experience in growing client portfolios by 5% on an annual basis will allow me to help your company reach its target of becoming a market leader.
My background is in customer service and I received MBA degree from University ZYX eight years ago. I’ve since worked for three Fortune 500 companies in roles that have witnessed me launch a new customer platform, increase annual sales by 400% and receive the employee of the state award twice. My passion is in innovation and I would love to implement new strategies for your customer department. I can discuss my ideas further during the interview.
I’m a goal-driven and dedicated client manager. I will be available for an interview at a suitable time for you when we can hopefully discuss innovation strategies further.
Please contact me at 123456 for any questions.
Thank you for your consideration.
In another sense, you could look at the template like this and use it to create your own winning cover letter:
<Introduction to yourself>
<Explanation for writing the letter>
<Your biggest selling point>
<Hook about your qualifications and expertise>
<Grab attention with real-life example of adding value>
<Reiterate your selling point and possible value>
<Propose an engagement>
<Remind about contact details>
<Thank the person>
Also read other parts of the Job Application Guide
HOW TO DOUBLE YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING THAT JOB INTERVIEWRead Part 1
THE 3 LITTLE-KNOWN HIRING CRITERIA THAT MIGHT COST YOU THE JOB INTERVIEW OR OFFERRead Part 2
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN SENDING YOUR JOB APPLICATION TO AN APPLICANT TRACKING SYSTEM (ATS)Read Part 3
HOW TO WRITE A BULLETPROOF RESUME HIRING MANAGERS LOVERead Part 4
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