Cover Letter Writing to Help You Hit Hard in Your Job Hunt, Minute 1, Line 1
Your cover letter is an employer’s first experience of you. Here are 10 quick ideas and sample cover letter samples and examples to help you make a big impact.
“Attached is my CV for your perusal”
– is that what your cover letters say? Or maybe your cover letters are longer – yeah, like 2 pages of dense text!? Either way there’s some work. Let’s get back to basics.
What’s a Cover Letter Really For?
There are two main situations that warrant a good cover letter:
- Any job application – answering job adverts, online, in newspapers, wherever; and
- A ‘cold’ call job hunting approach – where you’re approaching an employer when no known vacancy exists, but you have a particular interest in the company.
A Cover Letter is NOT …
For either situation mentioned above – a cover letter is NOT.
- It’s not another opportunity for you to drone on about yourself.
- It’s not an extension of your CV.
- It’s not your CV.
Your cover letter is there to make a quick impact. It’s there to generate a response. It’s an advert, short and sharp – for you. Establishing what benefit you provide and why the reader should believe you. That’s the purpose of any cover letter.
Everyone knows the cover letter isn’t the ‘main event’. It’s just an introduction. So by definition it’s going to get very little attention. It gets scanned even quicker than your CV. If at all. The sheer volume of job-applications makes it so. Readers/recruiters and employers don’t stop everything to give your cover letter undivided attention.
A good cover letter assumes the reader is busy and wants to see an immediate benefit for reading further. It needs to establish an immediate relevance to the needs/wants of the employer.
Here’s a list of cover letter ideas (and samples here) that you can apply – and you can also check (click, click) these sample cover letters and examples, application letters and motivations.
10 Cover Letter “Smash and Grab” Ideas
See what ideas you can apply here. They’re practical. Put them to work for you. They will.
Cover Letter Idea #1: Make it Quick
Long letters will almost certainly get you dumped. You have maybe 2 seconds to get attention. If you win those 2 seconds, you get another 2. Then another 2. And so it goes – all the way through you have to add interest and reasons for the reader to read on. A long cover letter can’t do that.
It’s not an opportunity to tell your life story. It’s not the place to go on and on about why you’re such a wonderful person, or to explain that maybe you’re not the right candidate but you’re applying anyway (so many people do this – I see it a lot).
All in all try to keep your cover letter to ½ a page, maybe 3 or 4 paragraphs – also see “Formatting” section.
Cover Letter Idea #2: Get Personal
Ok – you can address your cover letter “To Whom it May Concern”. Sometimes it’s all you can do. But, if you take the trouble to be more personal you’ll get more interest, more attention. It’s also more likely to actually be read by the right person.
And who is the right person? The person who has the power to hire you. Even if you’re asked in the advert to send your application to HR, why not also send it to the higher-up-the-food chain Manager as well? Do some homework, get a name, address your letter – and if you’re making a “cold” application know, now, that this is the ONLY way you should do so – sending it to “HR” only will break your heart.
Cover Letter Idea #3: Clarify and Direct
With your cover letter you’re in a battle for the mind of your reader. You want to capture it. You want to win response and action – in your favour. So mission #1 is to clarify what you’re looking for – what position, what role, what category or function do you fit?
If you’re replying to a job advert – state clearly what job you’re responding to. If you’re doing a ‘cold’ approach – do the same. The reader’s mind won’t focus on anything else until it knows the answer to that question. Give it right up front in your cover letter. You’re the director of this movie – take the lead.
Cover Letter Idea #4: Word Processing
Ok – just before we go on – you’ve got to get this right. Get someone to check your cover letter – don’t assume your word processing skills are up to scratch. Getting things aligned, balanced, properly done so that it looks professional – not DIY – is crucial. DIY won’t give the right first impression.
Remember you have 2 seconds. And before any reading gets done – an instant impression is already cast by the overall “look” of your letter. Anything out of whack in your cover letter will lead the reader down the wrong path.
Cover Letter Idea #5: Heading
Bet this isn’t something you’ve done before. But it’s a key strategy for newspapers, advertisers, and now … job hunters. And there are good reasons advertisers use it … it gets results. Make it work for you in your cover letter.
Include a headline. You want attention, right? So, demand it. Grab the reader’s eyes with your headline top and centre of your cover letter. Center it, make it bold, make it one line or less (although going to a second line isn’t a problem). Make it larger text (although keep it just a little larger). And make it relevant to the reader – it should immediately give a sense of benefit to the reader.
“Accountant – available to organise, streamline, and get things back on track.”
“Sales Rep available to break new ground, win back clients, and help build an outstanding Financial year.”
Are you willing to lay yourself on the line like this? If you’re not – then why should any employer hire you? If you are – then say it – clearly, confidently – in a headline.
Cover Letter Idea #6: Formatting
Keep your cover letter paragraphs to 2 or 3 lines at the most. The format should never have large chunks of text – chunks or blocks that the reader’s eye just skips and scans over. So, keep paragraphs short AND use bold formatting to highlight keywords (keywords – not whole paragraphs). This will make it easier for the reader to catch the right message from you.
Cover Letter Idea #7: Opening Line and 3 Best Points
“You may be interested …”, “You may see the benefit …” “You” grabs interest. Most cover letters start with “I”. But what’s on the reader’s mind? “Me”, “My problem”, “My department’s problem”, “My company’s problem”. “Me” is “You” to you. Get it?
You want the reader to sense that you’re a solution to a problem, that you’re bringing some benefit, that reading on will bring the ‘answer to a prayer’. That’s a great way to start your cover letter out.
Now, follow the general principle outlined below – identify some benefit, desired outcome or even a problem; then propose yourself as a solution or provider of the benefit; then give a credibility check – by including some hard facts about your experience, qualifications – basically why anyone should believe your claim to being ‘the one’.
You can say something like this:
“You may be interested in organising and streamlining your accounts processes – if they’re behind they can be a real headache and a risk to the company.”
Or this …
“You may need to achieve tough sales targets this financial year – winning back clients, breaking into new territories.”
Then: “Perhaps I can assist – here’s a quick profile:”
Then you bullet list your 3 best points – this is where you add a believability factor, credibility:
- I have a BComm Accounting degree from UNISA.
- 5 Years Accounting experience in medium sized manufacturing businesses.
- Have built a reputation for cutting costs, reducing processing time, and ‘no problem’ audits.
Get the picture?
Cover Letter Idea #8: Ask for the Interview
Now after being all confident and bold – what do you do next in your cover letter? Back off? No. You ask for the thing that’s going to take your proposal forward. You ask for the interview.
“I’m looking forward to discussing how I can make an impact – please could we schedule a 20 minute discussion – I’m contactable on 083 658 1111 anytime.”
Cover Letter Idea #9: Show Intent – Follow Up
If you’re going to be bold. If you’re confident. If you know you can be of value and benefit – you do right? – then will you persist? Yes. Will you show determination? Yes. Is it ok to do so? Yes!
So – show that even if the reader chooses to ignore your covering letter, that’s not going to be the end of it. Say that you’re intending to follow up by phone, and say when you’re planning to do so. Be specific and stick to it. Don’t just give up. Persist – it may just be the edge you need.
Covering Letter Idea #10: Don’t Always Include a CV
Huh? That’s right. With a CV comes baggage. HR baggage. On a cold call you’ll find your CV being routed to HR – the official channel. That’s often not what you want. All you want is the call showing interest, the CV can follow – preferably be personally delivered when you go for the interview.
The CV gets put aside for later reading, the CV gets filed, the CV gets rerouted to HR, the CV gets forgotten, the CV spoils your high impact first impression. So, if you’re doing a ‘cold’ approach be careful – your CV may actually jeopardise your chances. Try it – your covering letter (your sales letter) may just be the different approach you need.
Right – so there are some ideas to help you “smash” barriers and “grab” attention with your cover letter. Not an exhaustive list but certainly ideas that although they work – brilliantly – are largely ignored by job hunters in general.
YOU, on the other hand, know that in a job market where there are more people than jobs, you have to be smarter, bolder, and more persistent. You have to have a strong sense of how you can make a difference. And you have to present your case confidently, clearly, and perhaps a little differently to how you’ve done it in the past.
More on Cover Letters
Sample Cover Letters
If you have a sample cover letter/s then it makes things easy – copy, add your own words and details – but get the basics right! Sample cover letters like the ones below will give you more oooomph!
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