7 Top Tips To Help You Create A Winning Cover Letter
We’ve noticed that people seem to struggle more with writing a cover letter than they do with constructing a CV. After doing some digging into why this might be, we discovered the issue tends to be the fact that a cover letter is a page of words that need to flow succinctly, whereas a CV is broken down into manageable parts with smaller sections of writing that follows a logical format. Unfortunately, the fear of writing a cover letter often means people either put forward one that is poorly written or simply fail to write one at all – often sending their job applications without one!
Before we discuss our list of top tips to help ensure you’re sending an impactful, winning cover letter out into the world, let’s take a look at the purpose of a covering letter, and find out exactly why they are SO important.
“A cover letter is usually the first point of contact a candidate has with a prospective employer for a job application. It is sent accompanying a CV as a way of introduction. A well-written cover letter should summarise and condense the most recent and relevant points in your resume and how your skills and experience relate to the role you are applying for. It should also illustrate your written communication skills”
Not unlike fishing without a hook, without a covering letter, you’re sending a context-less CV, which can significantly diminish your chance of an interview. We checked in with the Creative Crew to ask which points they thought were the most important and helpful to consider when trying to write a cover letter to increase your chance of securing an interview. Here are the seven points they ranked the highest.
TIP ONE - One page only!
This tip has been listed at number one for a reason. Often people hear about the one-page rule, but still throw caution to the wind and end up writing a three-page rambling document. It is vital that your cover letter is only one page (that means one side of an A4 page using regular sized font) because the cover letter is intended as an introduction to you, and how your skills and experience relate to the job for which you are applying. Aside from putting people off reading it, producing a long-winded cover letter illustrates to the employer that you have difficulty getting your point across efficiently. We understand it can be tough, so if you have written a super long cover letter that you are having trouble reducing to one page, please feel free to get in touch and have our experts shorten and polish it for your application.
Bonus Tip: We have seen people try and get around the one-page rule by creating their one-page cover letter PLUS attaching a bunch of other documents such as certificates, testimonials, case studies and the like. Our advice? Only send through your two/three page CV with your accompanying one-page cover letter. If an employer wants to see other information, they will explicitly state this in the job ad.
TIP TWO – A logical flow of information
Similar to the old essay writing ‘sandwich technique’ you used in primary school (beginning, middle, end – or – bun, filling, bun), there is a method to creating a cover letter that produces a logical flow of information.
Because we understand that getting this info in order is probably the hardest thing to get right, we have designed a step-by-step cover letter writing guide. The guide can be purchased independently or is provided free to clients who use our cover letter writing service. Don’t panic though! We do have a couple of great tips to share here for free that should help!
The best advice we can give is to print out the job ad (and description if you have it) and use it as your guide to what to write. If it means you also need to print out your CV so you have these docs side by side and can highlight areas in your CV that directly align with the job ad, then do it! We sometimes do this too and find it very helpful.
The next best thing you can do is to write about your achievements in a way that supports what the employer is after. If they are seeking a ‘stellar account manager who gets results’, that is the perfect opportunity to mention you have singlehandedly grown your current portfolio of clients by 56% since quarter four. If the job advert is asking for a skilled mentor and coach, it would pay to mention your recent coaching qualification and the fact that you are responsible for lifting poor performance in your current role, with a recent staff survey indicating a 98% increased job satisfaction rate, and so on. You can draw extra attention to these achievements by bulleting them out after the first couple of paragraphs.
Bonus Tip: To get maximum impact with your one-page limit, and to ensure you’re building paragraphs with a logical flow, it pays to keep in mind that while soft skills such as ‘committed’, ‘driven’, and ‘motivated’ are great descriptive words, your primary focus needs to be on your hard skills and the way you plan to use your abilities to contribute to achieving their target business outcomes.
TIP THREE – Triple check the details
Have you addressed your cover letter to the right business? Have you got the correct date on the letter? Have you mentioned the right business throughout? Are your own contact details up to date and written without typos? Always triple check these details to ensure they are 100% correct or you risk looking careless!
Bonus Tip: If you can, try and get the name of an HR/hiring manager so you can address your letter to someone. By personalising it in this way, the recipient is more likely to take the time to read it. Just make sure you spell their name correctly!
TIP FOUR – No conjunctions, slang, or ‘etc.’
A covering letter is a formal document, so you must not use conjunctions such as ‘don’t’, ‘can’t’, ‘we’re’, ‘haven’t’ or colloquial/informal/slang language. Also make sure to steer clear of things like ‘etc.’, ‘e.g.’ and ‘…’ If you are using acronyms, make sure you write the word in full the first time (unless it is a company name such as IBM or ACC) and put the abbreviation in brackets to be sure the reader knows what you are referring to, and there is no room for misinterpretation.
TIP FIVE – It’s What You Can Do For Them…
Not what they can do for you. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Stop writing about the fact that you want the job because ‘it would be a great next step in your career’ or because ‘you are looking to get more exposure in a commercial environment’ No employer wants to hire someone because it is good for the employee. They want to hire someone that has the skills to make their business go from strength to strength. Think about it from their perspective. What would you want to hear from a potential employee? “You’re just a rung on my ladder to bigger and better things” Nope, didn’t think so!
TIP SIX – We’ve heard it all before…
Steer clear of overused words and phrases. You know the ones: ‘Attention to detail’, ‘Works well in a team’... For a full blog about avoiding these words and phrases, see: https://www.creativefixnz.com/single-post/2018/09/24/5-Words-Phrases-You-Should-Never-Include-In-Your-CV
TIP SEVEN – ‘File’ ,‘Save As’ ,‘PDF’
No contest! Remember to save your cover letter as a PDF before sending out to employers. Doing so ensures your document is stable and won’t go haywire and mess up the font/formatting when they open it on their computer. You never know what version of MS Word your employer might be running (or if they even have MS Word at all!) so it pays to be safe, rather than sorry on this one. No point putting all that effort into making a fab cover letter if it looks like hieroglyphics when they open it, or worse still, they can't open it at all!
Remember, if you get stuck, our cover letter writing and editing services are very affordable, so if you are looking to put your best foot forward, don't hesitate to get in touch. We have a range of service options available. Whether you need a one-page template to get you started, a new cover letter written for a specific job, a general cover letter that you can adapt for different jobs, or you simply want an existing cover letter you've written checked over before you send off your application, we can help.