Aug 28th 2020

How to write the perfect cover letter

The words cover letter fill most people with a sense of dread. You begin by browsing thousands of cover letter examples only to become instantly overwhelmed with no idea where to start. Probably thinking do people even read these?

Yes, they do. If a hiring manager asks for a cover letter as part of the job application then they will read it. Often they will place more weight on it than your CV. It’s the perfect opportunity for you to sell yourself, show off your written communication skills to prospective employers, and stand out from the crowd. Here are some extra tips to help your cover letters get you interviews.

Let’s look at writing your cover letter as a stage production. Where you ensure you have everything you need before you set off telling your story on why they should hire you. Right up to the closing scene to round it all off.

Here is our best advice on writing a successful cover letter.

The cover letter basics 

Keep it fresh 

No one can dispute that it’s quicker to use the same cover letter each time by changing a few of the details. But it’s not going to make you stand out. Hiring managers want to see originality and to feel as if you are excited for this specific position at their company. And that means tailoring each cover letter to the role you are applying for.

It is ok to reuse certain strong sentences and phrases but a generic cover letter is a no-go. For example, the opening line: “Dear Hiring Manager, I am excited to apply to the open position at your company,” screams generic and will be an immediate red flag. They will know that you have blasted out your application and it will go straight to the “No” pile.

Find your template

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use a template to structure your cover letter. A great cover letter is all about leaving the right first impression after all. And what’s a better way than with a well-formatted, visual template that is easy to read.

Novoresume has a whole range of different cover letter templates for you to choose from.

Remember, no matter what template you go for, start your cover letter with a header that includes:

  • Full name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Date
  • Name of the hiring manager and professional title
  • Name of the company you are applying for

Do not mention:

  • Your address
  • Unprofessional email

Cover letter greeting and first paragraph

Greet the Hiring Manager 

It used to be a thing to address the Hiring Manager by their full name and title i.e. “Dear Ms. Jane Smith”. For more casual industries nowadays, you can just drop the title and the last name.

What you must NOT do is use generic greetings such as “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madam.” You can always address the cover letter to the head of the department for the role you are applying for if you cannot find the hiring manager’s name.

Muse has a great list of alternatives you can use when you aren’t sure of the name but want to avoid making it generic.

Have them sold with your opening line 

As you have already put your name in the header, there is no need to write it again. But definitely mention the job you are applying for – yours could be one of many applications for different roles that the hiring manager has to sift through.

Your opening sentence should be a snappy first sentence that highlights how excited you are about the company you’re applying to, how passionate you are about the role, and what you can bring to it.

Setting the right tone

It’s important to give a bit of personality to your cover letter but also to show that you understand the environment and culture of the company. And that you fit this culture perfectly.

Cut the formality. Being excessively formal can be off-putting. It can make you seem insincere and even robotic. You want to show the hiring manager that you are an approachable, friendly, and all-round great person to work with.

Write in the company’s voice. Do your research on the company by checking out their company website and social media platforms. This will give you a sense of their tone and culture which you can then align yourself with in how you write.

Go easy on the enthusiasm. Yes, it is good to appear passionate and excited about the role. But “I am absolutely thrilled for the opportunity” is a bit too much. Try to keep the adverbs to a minimum.

Writing the main body

Second paragraph: Why you are suitable for the role

This is focused on selling yourself with your skills and experience, and why you are right for the job posting. It should expand on your CV, with everything you say tailored to the job at hand.

Highlight the right experiences. The most important requirements for the position will be listed in the job description. Make sure you describe how you can deliver on these key priorities by drawing on not only your own work experiences but also any side-hustles and how they are relevant for the role.

You can drop the job description into a tool called WordClouds and see what stands out. The key requirements will be repeated and will be what the Hiring Manager is looking for.

Your skill set. They could be technical skills that directly apply to the role, or soft but more transferable skills, such as problem-solving skills. Either way, you should expand on the most notable skill sets from your CV. Making sure they are job-specific and benefit the role you applying for.

Third paragraph: What you can do for them 

Big mistake: talking about how great the position would be for you. Hiring managers are the ones giving you the job. They are aware of this. What is important to them is knowing what you are bringing to the table.

Hiring managers love to see stats as it shows that you have had a measurable impact and speaks volumes about what you could bring to this role. It could be anything from making a process work 30% more efficiently or putting together an impressive number of events. Quantifying your work with hard evidence will make your cover letter stand out.

Finishing touches

Fourth paragraph: Drill it home 

Once you’ve got all your main points out, here is where you really reiterate your interest in the role and why you would be the right fit. The interviewer wants someone who is passionate about the job and who would make the perfect hire. It is also a good time to put in a call to action and indicate that you would like to meet the hiring manager in person for an interview.

Closing the letter 

Sign off your cover letter with “Yours sincerely” if you know the name of the hiring manager or “Yours faithfully” if you don’t, followed by your name.

And there you have it. The perfect cover letter ready to impress and, hopefully, land you your new job. Don’t forget to give it a proper once-over not only by yourself but also by other people just in case you missed something. Then all that’s left to do is send in your great cover letter and let it work its magic for your career.

For more on landing your next job, check out our Ultimate Guide to getting a job here.