How to write a GREAT cover letter

cover letter

Last month we discussed how to put together your resume with the aim of getting you in front of the recruiter or hiring manager. Many applications request a cover letter to accompany your resume. No one looks at that do they? Wrong!!!

When composing your cover letter remember this is a great chance to connect with the reader. Tell them why you are applying. Not some generic rubbish that you have sent off to 100 employers, but really tell them why you want to work for THEM. What is it that you love about their brand, their service, their reputation – surely there must be something (otherwise why are you applying?!). Key reminder here though – keep it real. Everyone loves to be flattered but only if it comes from the heart.

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Secondly, tell them why you would be suitable for the job. Perhaps even include a quote from a referee or a LinkedIn testimonial. Again don’t be generic here. I come from a marketing background is not enough, instead look at similarities with markets and demographics, supply chains and regions.

Finally make sure you express just how much you want the job. It’s not always the most experienced person who gets the job, as they don’t always convince the hiring manager that they really want it. No one wants to think you are just taking a job waiting for a better one to come along (even if you are!).

So with these goals in mind, here’s a format of what your letter should include:

1. Correct addressing details. Even if the advert doesn’t state the name of the person doing the hiring, there are ways to find this out. Check out their website careers or contacts page or simply call them. This can sometimes give you an edge.
2. Your opening paragraph should give a reason for the hiring manager to continue reading. Explain here why you are interested in the job and why the organisation appeals to you.
3. The second paragraph should demonstrate that you can do the job. The easiest way is to reflect the key words used in the advert, without blatant plagiarism, but by paraphrasing. Make it clear through your own unique selling points why you can do the job e.g. I have five years’ experience as a Marketing Manager for XYZ where I delivered over 10 successful direct mail campaigns as opposed to I have skills in direct mail. Note the difference and if you only take one tip out of this article, I’d suggest it be that one!
4. When you get to the third paragraph you need to let them know of any major career achievements that are relevant to this position. Don’t just provide a summary of your resume, here is where you can show your alignment with their culture and goals. Link your experience to their brand, clients or marketplace – paint a picture of your transferable skills and learnings.
5. Finally make sure you thank them for their time, indicate that you would like the opportunity to discuss how you could add value to the team and ensure your contact details are listed.

Try to keep to one page and, as always, proof read! What are some of the things you’ve added to your cover letter that has landed you the job? Share in the comments below.

Kathie Kelly

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Kathie is the Director of Square Pegs Consulting which was founded to provide affordable assistance to not for profits, businesses and individuals with recruitment/HR, resume writing, tender submissions and business sales coaching.

She has spent a number of years in recruitment, workforce planning, marketing/business development and community/corporate partnerships in both NZ and Australia. As a keen follower of the arts Kathie has also been on the board of the Anywhere Theatre Festival, loves to travel and is an avid rugby league follower. You can connect with Kathie on LinkedIn at or via Twitter @1KathieKelly