ow do you write a good cover letter? A cover letter is more personal than a CV (you can read more about how to write a good CV here). The purpose of a cover letter is to give the employer the chance to get to know you better and to put your experience into context.
It's also an opportunity for you to be a little more specific than in your CV and explain why your experience and qualities make you a good candidate for the particular job that you are applying for. In this article, you'll find tips and tricks on how to write a good cover letter.
As a participant in Prepare and Match at Curonova, you will receive personal assistance with crafting your CV and cover letter. Contact us if you want to know more about how we can help you find new opportunities!
What is the difference between a CV and a cover letter?
The most obvious difference between a CV and a cover letter is the format. A well-written CV is basically a well thought-out list, whereas a personal letter is written in running text with complete sentences and paragraphing.
A CV and a cover letter may look and feel similar in content, as both are intended to provide an overview of the jobseeker's career and show employers that the person is right for the job. Therefore, a mistake many people make when writing a cover letter is to repeat exactly what is written in their CV –making the cover letter redundant.
The purpose of a cover letter is for you, as a jobseeker, to paint the recruiter a picture of yourself that is more nuanced than a dry and stripped-down list of previous employers.
You could say that whereas your CV lays out your experience in bullet points, your cover letter should draw the lines that connect the dots. Together, they should reveal the whole picture of why you, with your experience, are the best candidate for the job.
So, for example, if you are applying for a job as a sales representative at a company, and your CV says that you worked as a tourist guide between 2007-2010, you can describe in your cover letter how your experience of working as a guide has taught you valuable lessons about how to engage the person you are talking to and create good customer relations.
In other words, you use the more formal information contained in your CV to show how your previous experience has prepared you for the job you are applying for.
Be straight to the point
Employers often must go through many cover letters, so try to pique their interest as soon as possible and don't waste time writing a long introduction. Instead, start right away by introducing yourself in a few short words, stating the job you are applying for, and explaining why you are the best man (or woman) for the job!
Once you have the employer on the hook, you can elaborate on your experiences and how they have prepared you for the job you are applying for.
In principle, a cover letter should never be more than one page long, so choose what you include carefully and make sure that everything you write is relevant for the employer to know. As mentioned earlier, employers often must go through a lot of cover letters, so it's often appreciated if you skip long descriptions and filler text and instead respect the employer's time by letting them know at once what it is you have to say. If your cover letter is far too long, the employer may feel that it is not even worth the effort reading it.
Also, don't try to "cheat" your way to a longer text by reducing the font size or line spacing. This will only make your text harder to see and read (and it won't fool anyone). Stick to 12 points, and between 1 and 1.5 inline spacing.
If your personal letter is shorter than one page then, as long as you get what you want said, this is only positive!
Tailor the letter to the job you are applying for
The most important, and perhaps only, criterion when choosing what to include in your cover letter is that it should relate in some way to the position you are applying for and show why you would be suitable for it. So, take the time to think about what the employer might be looking for in an employee. The most obvious thing to do is to include experience that directly relates to the position, such as whether you have worked in something similar before.
As a general rule of thumb, you should only include in your cover letter those work experiences that are actually relevant to the position you are applying for, and provide a more detailed list in your CV.
It may also be useful to take a closer look at the specific personal qualities employers seem to be looking for in their candidates. Do they want someone who works well in a team? Is meticulous? Good at English? Good with people?
It's a good idea to have a look around the company's website and social media to get a feel for the type of people they are looking for. You can then highlight in your cover letter the aspects of yourself that you think make you an attractive candidate for the job!
Give examples and skip the clichés
The employer will probably have read tired clichés such as "I like to have many balls in the air" or "I like to be challenged" many times.
Instead of using general and sweeping expressions, you can give examples that show that you have the qualities you want to convey. Do you feel that you are stress resistant? Then give an example of a work experience where you performed well under pressure. Are you easy to get along with? Then tell us about a time when you handled a social situation well.
Anyone can claim to have this or that quality, but if you give examples like this, you show the employer in a concrete way how you function in your work life. It will make you stand out more if you come up with unique examples, and it will also be much more fun for the employer to read!
Choose your words carefully
As always, when it comes to making a good impression, language is very important, both in terms of tone and grammar.
To begin with, a cover letter should be written in a way that balances the personal and the professional. It's good to be reasonably serious and describe yourself and your experience in a straightforward way, but beyond that, it doesn't hurt to be a bit more personal in a cover letter than you are in your CV.
Sometimes you can be a little blind to your own text, so you might want to ask someone close to you to read through the text and tell you how they feel about it - is it too dry, or too unserious?
Grammar is also very important, as a text with spelling mistakes and poor sentence structure can quickly give the employer the impression that you are sloppy, incompetent, or have other negative traits.
Read through the text several times and make sure it flows well and that everything is spelled correctly. Again, it's a good idea to have someone else proofread the text, as an extra pair of eyes can often spot errors you've missed yourself.
Feel free to end with a nice goodbye-phrase, such as that you look forward to hearing from them or that you think you could contribute a lot to their business. It will leave the employer with a good aftertaste.
5 topics that may be useful to address:
Here are some general topics that may be useful to address and structure your cover letter around:
1. What is it about the job that attracts you
Tell the employer what it was that made you apply for the job. Does the job seem fun to you? Developmental? Thrilling?
2. Who are you, and what drives you?
Tell the employer about yourself, what kind of person you are and what motivates you, what you like to do, and so on. Preferably things that are relevant to the position.
3. What kind of experience do you have that could be useful at work?
Include work experience and other experience that you think is relevant to the job you are applying for. What have you done before that has prepared you for the job you are applying for?
4. What personal qualities do you have that can be useful at work?
Describe your personality and how it makes you suitable for the job. For example, you could mention that you are good with people if you are applying for a sales job (as mentioned earlier, instead of just saying you have certain qualities, it is good to give concrete examples where they have been demonstrated).
5. Why should they hire you?
Finally, pitch yourself to the employer! Explain why they should choose you and no one else.
Cover letter example
Below is an example of a personal letter.
Notice how the author uses the techniques we have mentioned:
- The letter has a clear subtitle that introduces the author straight away and points out what makes him a good candidate.
- The introduction tells us why he is applying for the job, followed by a description of experiences in which the author demonstrates his leadership skills in a concrete way through examples.
- There is a clear pitch for why the employer should hire the writer.
- The text is written in a pleasant and engaging way, and it is just the right amount of personal and inviting, which makes the author seem like a nice person to work with.
- The text ends in a confident and pleasant way that encourages the employer to get in touch.
However, keep in mind that this is only meant as an example of a cover letter and not as an immutable template for how you should write one. There are many things you could have done differently, things you could have included and things you could have removed. The point here is simply to show how the tips we've covered in the article can be used in practice.
Hopefully all this has helped you to get a better understanding of what a cover letter is, and how you can write a cover letter that will give you the best chances when looking for a new job!
If the employer is interested, it might be time for a job interview.
Here you can read about how to nail your job interview!
How can Curonova help me?
As a participant in Prepare and Match with us at Curonova, you will receive professional help with crafting your CV and cover letter. You will be assigned a personal Matchmaker who will work with you to make your application documents the best they can be!
The Matchmaker will help you tailor your application documents to the specific jobs you're looking for and will also help you with the basics such as how to write a good email and how to follow up on your application.
If you are called for an interview, your Matchmaker will drill you in advance, so that you go in prepared and with good self-confidence – all this to give you the best possible chances of succeeding in your job search!
If you are interested in taking advantage of Curonova’s help and boosting your chances of finding a new job, do not hesitate to contact us and we will gladly help you!