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You'll need these tips to craft the perfect cover letter

By Ana Isabel Alonsagay

Crafting that perfect cover letter or resume can be one of the most challenging aspects of the job-hunting process.

Though it may be tempting to skip this step in your application (you could already have a killer resume, after all); a stand-out cover letter can grant you a greater chance of grabbing company attention. In fact, studies show that 53% of employers prefer applicants with a well-crafted cover letter.

But what does a quality cover letter entail? Below, SkillsTalk outline four expert-backed tips on how to write a cover letter – boosting your chances of landing that interview. 

1. Make first impressions count.

Hiring managers will likely be sifting through a huge pile of other cover letters and resumes – so make sure to set yourself apart from the crowd. 

This involves setting a good impression off the bat. While it may seem standard to start your writing off with: “My name is Ana, and I’m applying for [job role] at [company]”; stock phrases such as these can instantly prompt boredom, rather than interest. 

Rather than relying on tired and typical openings (or stating why you’re writing in the first place – since the hiring manager already knows this), get creative and inject more of your personality into the letter. 

Experts suggest leading with something exceptional about you and your skillset. Remember: you’re selling yourself, so try and highlight what makes you distinct. This could be your unique approach to management (if you’re applying for a leadership role), your striking ability to boost sales – or even what’s inspired you to pursue the industry. 

Additionally, try writing in a personable fashion that not only proves you’re a qualified addition for the company – but a fun colleague to work with, at that. Weaving a bit of emotion into your writing (especially when highlighting your big wins) is also recommended in moderation; as studies have shown “emotional image” to have greater, memorable impact. 

2. Focus on the key skills required.

skills concept

Of course, your letter can’t be all fluff (or verbose storytelling).

On top of engaging hiring managers with your unique personality, ideas, and professional experience; it’s also critical to underline their key requirements and how you match them as a candidate. 

A popular trick to nailing this is to refer to their job description – these paragraphs often serve as a “checklist” of traits and skills they’re looking for in potential employees. When writing your cover letter, be sure to reiterate each (or most) of these, and the skills or experience you have to fit the criteria. 

Be specific and provide examples; this bolsters your legitimacy or authority as an expert in your field. Employers appreciate impressive numbers, facts, and figures that demonstrate just how qualified you are for the role. This can include past sales achievements, awards you’ve received, or well-known figures or businesses you’ve worked for or collaborated with. 

It’s also recommended to expound on two to four relevant abilities you’ve highlighted in your resume. This helps you re-emphasise your key skills, while avoiding repetition in your cover letter; providing a deep-dive of your skillset and how they’ll serve you well in your role. 

3. Show them what you have to offer.

When writing a cover letter, one can often get caught up in explaining why they are interested in applying for their desired position. This can include their reasons for pursuing the role and how it plays a part in their overall career goals. 

While not terrible details to mention, it’s best to make use of your letter space describing how you can benefit the company. Take time to explain why you’re an asset, and how you can help them in their vision. This same angle can also be incorporated into your reasons for applying; rather than highlighting your goals, outline your passion for what the company does and how you can effectively take part in it. 

While spotlighting your past professional experiences is recommended, avoid delving into long-winded stories or crafting a “laundry list” of your skills acquired. Instead, emphasise on the experiences or competencies that matter most to the job and the company’s goals, as well as best showcase your character and what makes you unique. 

As mentioned, examples are critical – especially if you’ve got hard evidence or qualifications to back up your skills. Not all need to be flashy, however; as some of the simplest abilities or traits can be marketed well with the right anecdotes or splash of creative, personable writing. 

In a Forbes article, a former contributor and program manager once shared an excerpt from a memorable cover letter they once wrote:

“If I’m in a conference room and the video isn’t working, I’m not the sort to simply call IT and wait. I’ll also (gracefully) crawl under the table and check that everything is properly plugged in.”

Though the statement highlighted a few simple soft skills, these few lines did well in showing the applicant’s personality – adding character to their cover letter.

4. Have the proper structure.

hr manager reading

Finally, you’ll want to follow the proper “anatomy” of a professional cover letter.

According to Glassdoor, all successful cover letters typically start with the applicant’s contact information, followed by a greeting, intro paragraph, body paragraph(s), and a closing paragraph or CTA. 

Your cover letter must first and foremost highlight your name, phone number and/or e-mail, allowing recruiters to easily reach out if need be. These details should be placed at the topmost part of your letter (or on a clear, conspicuous area on the page); never make them a task to find.

Then, begin with a friendly but professional greeting. Once again, forget stock phrases such as “To whom it may concern,” or “Dear Sir/Madam” – if you can, try and address the hiring manager or recruiter by name. 

Let your creativity and personality shine through the introductory paragraph, engaging your reader right away. Here’s where it’s recommended to mention any anecdotes or interesting facts about yourself and your professional experience. Showcase that you’ve done your research and are knowledgeable in who the company is and what they do. 

This is then followed by your body paragraphs, where you’ll dive into the skills that make you an ideal candidate – along with evidence to back up your qualities. Finally, use your closing paragraphs to reinstate your passion and interest for the role (without sounding redundant), while adding a call-to-action that prompts the reader to move forward with your application (such as inviting them to follow up or contact you). 

Every cover letter counts

As impressive as your resume may be, a killer cover letter may just be what you need to persuade potential employers. 

Crafting one for each new application can take a bit more time and effort – but these letters are the perfect opportunity to further delve into your skills, achievements, and persona; leaving a greater, more memorable impact than a simple, cold resume can achieve. 

With the right balance of creativity and professionalism (and a good dose of crafty self-marketing), you’re well on your way to write a quality cover letter that can help you win interviews – and hopefully, that dream role to boot.
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