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How to Write a Compelling Cover Letter: Where to start?

 28th Mar 2019

Where to start?

No one seems to have a definitive answer on cover letters. How much time is needed on them? How much detail do they need? Are they even read by employers? Well the truthful answer is; it depends (it’s a case-by-case scenario). But by coordinating a captivating letter, you will have the upper hand as most jobs require it. The whole point of writing a cover letter is to entice the employer to take a look at your CV so as they say, “first impressions count!”


What to Include in Your Cover Letter

  • Contact information – personal addresses are not always required but can provide extra assurance to the employer. An email address, contact number should suffice (further information can always be provided upon request, this is useful to remember for your CV, too!)
  • Introduce yourself and the relevant experience you have for the role! Grab the reader’s attention by stating why you’re the perfect fit. For example, you could say, “As a part time sales adviser with two years’ experience, I’ve actively motivated my peers to exceed the company’s KPI’s, which propelled my excitement when I sought this position.” Or, “As a student of English Literature, I have proven my aptitude to work throughout my degree by {example}, and my direct efforts led me to seeking this opportunity.”
  • What you know about the company/institution? (Keep it brief, but keep it relevant)
  • Summarise and request a follow up – it shows that you actually care about the job and want to improve even if it wasn’t the outcome you hoped for. For example, “Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you” – embedded command holds more leverage than you think.


Death of the Cover Letter & Social Media

Most employers will have a quick browse on any potential employees LinkedIn page. As much as this is the new norm, traditional methods are still very much revered when applying to professional jobs (essential for graduates to note). Having the skills of co-ordinating a cover letter lets the employer know that you’ve got the skills to sell yourself rather than just a few attention-grabbing phrases on your profile(s). It can’t be ignored that social media is taking over many dominated areas, including how we all apply for jobs. Nonetheless, composing a compelling cover letter that provides an insight to who you are and the attributes you have is much more valuable to employers, and may just give you the edge you need.


Avoid Exhausted Lines

“I’m really the best applicant for the role…”. Avoid vague/passive language such as “I have many skills”. Instead, showcase your skills with a narrative approach and always back it up with examples and scenarios. Also, avoid bland phrasing such as “I’m fantastic at problem solving” whether or not this is true it demonstrates nothing! (You want the employer to see how you implemented this skill in a real-life situation!)

The UK Employer Skills Survey (ESS) is one of the largest business surveys in the world, with the data in the report based on survey responses from over 87,000 employers. When addressing a potential employer whose name you don’t know, in 2018, employers surveyed how they prefer to be addressed:

“Dear Sir/Madam” - 17.9%

“To Whom it May Concern” - 27.4%

“Dear Hiring Manager” - 40.5%


Consistency & Sounding Disingenuous

Use your own voice. That might sound strange considering it is a formal piece of writing and needs to conduct a certain level of professionalism, but don’t let this lead you astray. Avoid sounding over-zealous, e.g. “I have never wanted a job more”, “this company is everything I’ve ever dreamed of working for”. Instead, show your enthusiasm in a more refined form, e.g. “it is with great enthusiasm that I am submitting my application. I feel I can bring my diverse/transferrable skillset to the already established company/institution, and in return I am confidence that I would learn a lot.” Be consistent in your reasoning - especially when stating why you want to the role. Many graduates make the mistake of stating a list of reasons they fit the bill and forget to be consistent with providing solid examples of their experience. Find a balance and don’t under sell yourself either! Saying “I am adaptable” is much more of an effective statement than saying “I am sort of…”. Clarity is what you want to showcase, along with stability and competence being the most alluring quality to a hiring manager. Remember this!


Stick to a Single Page Doc, PLEASE!

No employer wants to sift through War and Peace when reading your cover letter, so the best thing you can do is to keep it limited to single page document (with a concise structure). Find some templates here from a recent Grafter, Scott Batchelor! Your cover letter is supposed to give a brief introduction to the candidate (you) and the reasons why the company should consider you for the role.


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