Writing a cover letter is a lifelong career skill that can increase your chances of success when you’re applying for a new job.
While not all job applications require a cover letter, many employers rely on the letter to assess a candidate’s personality, suitability in a role and the transferable skills they have that might be relevant in the position.
By understanding how to write a cover letter, you’re in a better position to create an engaging and informative document that sits alongside your CV.
Below we explore how to write a cover letter in five easy steps.
What is a cover letter?
Before we consider starting a cover letter, it’s important to understand what a cover letter is and the purpose it serves.
Put simply, a cover letter is a formal document that provides an employer with an outline of your skills, qualifications and past achievements.
A cover letter should highlight your personality, your working style and contain examples of past successes that you’ve directly supported.
As a supporting document to your CV, the goal of a cover letter is to encourage the reader to also read your CV or encourage them to invite you to the next stage of the application process.
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How to write a cover letter in 5 steps
When you set out to write a cover letter, you can use the following 5 steps as a way of properly formatting and laying out your cover letter in the correct way:
1. Format the heading of your cover letter accordingly
Depending on how you’re sending your cover letter, you may choose to format your heading differently. If you’re submitting your application online through a portal or form, you probably don’t need to include your contact information as this is located elsewhere in the application.
If you’re applying directly to an employer, as an attachment through email, for example, you may include the contact information at the top of the page to ensure they have a way of contacting you at all times.
2. Use a professional greeting
How you start your cover letter depends on how well you know the employer, hiring manager or recruiter within the business. In some cases, the job application may specify the name of the contact which you can then use in your application.
If not, you may opt for the standard professional greeting of Dear Sir/Madam. This same professionalism should apply to the rest of the letter. Avoid using any slang, industry jargon or clichés as this can impact the formality of the document. Instead, you may choose to use more formal language that also uses action verbs, to avoid any passive language.
3. Use examples or statistics to provide context
Whenever you can it’s a good idea to provide examples of your work in the form of statistics or context, as this showcases a tangible impact you’ve had through your work. A good way of approaching this is to identify a problem that you faced in a previous role, discuss your thought process in how you approached the issue and the solution that you found in the process.
By demonstrating this workflow, you show the potential employer your critical thinking skills alongside the actions you took and the results of those actions in a meaningful way.
Make sure that you’re concise with your description as this allows you to highlight a complete overview of the task. For example, rather than simply saying ‘my skills make me a good fit for the company’ you may say:
“My previous experience in my career allowed me to apply my skills in actioning customer feedback in a positive way. By applying my marketing skills to the issue our customer base was facing, I reduced complaints by 30% and helped generate 20% more revenue for my company, while supporting the development of new processes.”
4. Highlight your responsibilities
Within your cover letter, it’s always a good idea to demonstrate the responsibilities you had in your previous roles as this provides a concise form of context for your potential employer.
This step is particularly important if you have relevant experience in a similar role or the industry. Demonstrating past responsibilities provides an employer with the knowledge that you understand the sector and the various processes involved in the role.
Taking this approach within your cover letter also helps an employer if they’re screening your application for a competitive role where they’ve received a larger amount of applications.
5. Keep your cover letter concise
When you’ve finished your cover letter, make sure you take a break and then come back to review it. While you want your cover letter to be formatted correctly and informative, it’s just as important to make sure that it’s concise and to the point.
Keep in mind that employers and recruiters have to screen a large amount of applications, which includes cover letters and CVs. By ensuring that your cover letter is concise and to the point, you can ensure that you’re providing a comprehensive overview of your career so far.
Cover letter template
Dear [Contact Name] or [Sir / Madam]
I’d like to be considered for the position of Marketing Manager at Marketing Business.
I have a long-term track record of working in Marketing roles, with my most recent role being a Marketing Executive in-house at MarketingCo. During my time in this role I’ve developed a wide range of skills in marketing techniques ranging from SEO to PPC and Email Marketing. My biggest success in this role was the development of a nurture program for existing clients, in an effort to create leads ready for sale from initial contacts. This meant liaising with different functions within the marketing team, from designers to copywriters, in an effort to create communications that would encourage initial, early stage leads to purchase our products. This project increased the number of sales from initial inquiries by 26%.
I completed a Marketing degree at the Marketing Academy which helped me develop skills in various marketing software platforms such as SEMrush, Hubspot and email builders such as Mailchimp. During my role, senior managers have complimented me on my organisational skills and ability to collaborate across different functions to reach a common goal. As an individual, I am self-motivated, eager to learn and passionate about marketing.
After researching your business, I’m pleased to see that your company goals align with my own and I feel that my experience in managing projects has provided me with the experience to manage a wider marketing team. From dealing with different personalities within the team to reporting to senior management, my previous roles have given me the opportunity to expand my transferable skills and develop my own management style.
Thank you for considering my application and I invite you to read my CV, which has more detail about my skills and qualifications.