A well written cover letter helps you in several ways. It lets the reader know you are serious about the job and it gives you the opportunity to showcase yourself in a different way than a straightforward CV. In this article we’ll give you 44 free Word templates to start with.
How do I write a good cover letter?
A cover letter should do three things. It should explain WHY you want the job so badly, WHY you are so suitable and WHAT makes you stand out compared to others.
Include your motivation
The motivation is the most important part that can only be found in the cover letter and not in the resume. Therefore that should be the part that you explain the best in your cover letter. It’s also often the most difficult thing to do and it requires some research. If you are truly motivated for a job, then you need to know about the job.
Knowing WHY you want a job comes from finding out about the job. This can usually NOT be done from behind a screen alone. Yes you will want to research the company online and LinkedIn will help you as well, but it’s really important that you talk to other people about the company and about the job. Pick up the phone and meet with people. Try to call about the job and find out more about what you’d be applying to. Once you know enough – then figure out what makes you tick about this job and let that become your WHY.
With a good motivation you’ll be able to grab the employer’s attention. It will be targeted and it will be personal.
Explain how you match
Your resume will highlight all the relevant experience and an employer will be able to see that you have the relevant experience in there. But it will not be specific and you cover letter CAN BE.
In your cover letter you can pinpoint exact points in your experience where you think you picked up the skills that are required for the position. You can also show where you applied your tools and where you accomplished the relevant things that you want noticed.
This is another opportunity for you to make sure the employer understands that you know what the job entails and that you are confident that you can do the job and have the required experience. And that you know what kind of experience that is and what is expected of you.
It also makes their life a little bit easier – they don’t have to search for specific things in your CV and you don’t risk that they miss them!
Explain why you are the best
When an employer has to go through dozens of job applications, one question is continuously on her/his mind: “which candidates are the best?”. This is a combination of motivation and experience, but also of characteristics that make a candidate likely to succeed in a role.
Highlight these characteristics! If you think a job really needs a good communicator, then this is your chance to explain why you are the best communicator. Prove it with examples!
This is also your chance to use extra-curricular skills or experience. If you happen to speak multiple languages or organize hamster rallies on the weekends – this could be the chance to mention that if it will make you the best at this job!
When should I include a cover letter?
Of course you should always include a cover letter, when a prospective employer asks for one. That should be a no-brainer. Also for a lot of professional roles (managerial roles, roles with public visibility etc) it is custom to include one and it’s considered general knowledge in those fields.
But there are several other scenarios where it’s not custom nor explicitly stated in the advertisement, where you still want to include a cover letter. Here are a few examples:
- You want to include additional information that you resume doesn’t contain. You may have a special connection to the job (a reference for example) or an important reason to apply that you want to highlight.
- You have a work experience gap that you want to address so that your resume doesn’t get tossed out immediately without consideration.
- You want to stand out in a competitive field that is bland or introverted by nature. Certain fields are known for attracting data-oriented people or hands-on types, where not too much interaction is expected. To avoid being on a stack of 20 similar resumes, it can help if you’re the only that has a cover letter in those cases.
There are also situations where you do NOT want to include a cover letter. These are mostly when the job application specifically mentions that a cover letter is not to be included.
When the job application is online and there’s no way to upload a cover letter, you may still want to think about getting one through. This could be one of those opportunities where you have a good hook to call about the job application. The cover letter can be the “excuse” to pick up the phone and this may lead you to be remembered when the time comes for the recruiter to go through the stack of CVs.