So you’ve just finished your resume, and now you need to upload a cover letter… but what IS a cover letter? And why do you need one?
A cover letter is a short (maximum one page), tailored letter that should always accompany any resume or application documents that you send to a prospective employer.
You need a cover letter because it’s what creates the first impression, as it’s generally the first document that your future employer will read.
It’s also way more than just rehashing your resume (in fact, that’s one of the biggest cover letter no-no’s!).
The main goal of your cover letter and resume is to convince a manager that you are a worthwhile interview candidate in less than 10 seconds. You read that right: 10 seconds! Of course, obvious advice such as not having spelling, grammar or formatting mistakes is valuable and not to be sneezed at... But the strategies below can help you to stand out in a pile of well-written cover letters.
Wait - have you done our Career Quiz? Oh man, this whole thing will make a lot more sense if you do that first.
Cover Letter (First-person)
1a) First Sentence
- The first sentence should be a snappy summary of what you do, your experience, and the assertion that you are excited about the position. Link your experience/interests to the specific vacancy. What study and employment are you currently doing?
1b) Address the cover letter to the hiring manager.
E.g. "I am a year 11 student from XX High School with a keen interest in XX. I’d love to bring my skills and enthusiasm to your growing engineering team."
This info should be easy to find online or with a phone call. Make sure the person’s name is spelt correctly, and the title is correct.
1c) Body of the cover letter.
Go beyond the company’s website and find out what the company’s long-term goals and challenges are. Address how you would use your skills to help the goals be met and the challenges overcome.
Choose two to three key points you want to make about your specific experiences, achievements, strengths and personal qualities. Remember to provide examples to back up your claims, e.g. are you a good leader, team player, organiser or time manager? Prove it with a practical, real-life example.
1d) Tone of voice.
Persuade the employer that you are suitable. Show enthusiasm!
Match the tone of your cover letter to the organisation. A goofy-yet-smart cover letter might get your foot in the door at a startup, but a formal letter would be more appropriate for a position at a bank. Look at how their web copy is written to get an idea of their brand’s tone of voice.
1e) In 2 - 3 sentences, refer the reader to your attached resume for more details
, request an interview and mention you will follow up on your application with a phone call. Thank the reader for their time and consideration. Remember to follow up with a phone call.
We’ve said it before but we need to stress this: make sure your formatting is consistent and triple check that bad boy for spelling, grammar and punctuation.
Congratulations, you just wrote your first cover letter!
Need more advice to get you ready for your first job? Check out some tips and tricks on what it takes to create the perfect resume and cover letter below: