Landing a job isn’t like throwing your name into a lucky dip. There’s a reason your name is chosen from a pile of others and you can guarantee it’s not the result of a hiring manager shutting their eyes and hoping for the best. Your application is a little snapshot of you and, if you’ve created your cover letter and CV correctly, it’s a little sample of what you can offer your (hopefully) new company.
The cover letter is the pick-up line to your CV; it’s the first impression that grabs attention and gives a succinct insight into what you’re about. As such, it’s imperative that you craft it carefully, demonstrating who you are, what you can offer, and how you’ll slot right into a company’s culture.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few ways you can guarantee a killer cover letter.
Why do I need a cover letter?
Although it’s not always explicitly requested, a cover letter personalized to the job is a crucial step in your job application process and should never be overlooked. It’s the best way to home in on the skills that are the most relevant to the advertised position and highlight achievements that you’re most proud of — a way to match yourself to the job and ensuring your suitability isn’t buried somewhere else in any unread portion of your resume.
How to make a cover letter
Your cover letter should be no more than one page and follow a rough format of three main paragraphs:
- One that secures the attention of the hiring manager.
- A second to explain what skills and experience is relevant to the role
- A final paragraph that summarizes why you’re a perfect fit for the organization.
Write your cover letter
The first step to creating your cover letter is to write out all the important information that needs to be included. Generally, you should always include the following:
Add your contact details
Your full name and contact details should be included at the top of your cover letter, generally including your email and phone number so you can be easily contacted. If you don’t have a professional email, get one—no hiring manager will be tempted to email a candidate who has an address like [email protected]
Additionally, make an effort to get the correct details of the person you’re contacting—most importantly, their name. You want them to feel as though you’re talking directly to them.
Include the details of the job you’re applying for
It’s not uncommon for companies to be hiring for several jobs at the same time. Add the job you’re applying for either at the top of the letter (e.g. RE: Sales Assistant application) or embedded in the first sentence of your cover letter (I’m excited to apply for the role of Community Manager).
Add experience and relevant skills
A CV often details responsibilities encompassed in roles you’ve performed but they don’t explicitly outline how this experience relates directly to the job that’s being advertised. It’s your job in the cover letter to show the hiring manager how your skills are suited to their job description. This includes highlighting the skill or experience, explaining how you’ve applied it to a previous company’s benefit and further, how it can be harnessed for the benefit of the job you’re currently applying for.
Sell why you’re the right person for the position
The crux of your cover letter is in convincing the hiring manager that you’re the best choice for the job. There is likely to be several reasons you feel you’re the right person for the position and you should use your cover letter to say as much. Whether it’s your deep knowledge of the industry, your extensive experience in the advertised department or your passion for their product (or all of these things), make an effort to highlight these reasons in your cover letter, always supporting your statements with evidence from experience throughout your career.
Use Action verbs
The language you use in your cover letter matters. Of course, there are the more obvious requirements like proper grammar and the correct spelling, but there are also specific language tricks you can use to make a strong first impression on the recruiter. One easy trick to highlight your accomplishments is to use action verbs. Action verbs express physical or mental action. For a resume, words like operated, executed, coordinated, and produced provide a clear picture of your previous experience.
Include specific data and numbers
If you think data is on its way to ruling the world, you’re not far off: over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. Harness this new partiality to using data as proof by including some in your resume.
“Hiring managers love numbers because they add context and scope to the responsibilities of your role,” says Lucy Chalmers, expert resume creator and founder of Lucy Writes Resumes. “All potential candidates will list their previous responsibilities, yet few will actually support these with numbers.”
When it comes to using metrics, Lucy recommends focusing on the following three areas:
- Growth. “What did you bring to the business? How much revenue did you generate? How many new clients did you acquire?”
- Reduction. “How much money did you save the business? What environmental efficiencies did you achieve? How much time did you save?”
- Impact. “How many people have you assisted? How many teams have you led? How many clients have you managed?”
How to design your cover letter
1. Choose your template or start your design from scratch
Canva has hundreds of letterhead templates that you will be able to customize to suit your cover letter needs. From sleek and professional, to creative and bold. There is something for every industry.
2. Add in your text
Once you’ve chosen your template, add in your text. Next, space out the words on the page so it’s easily scannable.
3.Customize, the colors and fonts to suit your needs
Whether you’re adding a banner to your cover letter, or a footer with your contact details, the power of design can help you make your cover letter stand out against the competition.
4. Proofread your design
When it comes to your cover letter, it’s important to ensure that you are showing your potential employer your attention to detail by double-checking what you’ve designed and written on your cover letter.
5. Download your cover letter
Whether you intend to print out a physical copy of your cover letter, or to submit a digital copy, it’s important to download your design in the proper format and resolution. With Canva, you can download your cover letter as a PDF for either print or digital format.
What shouldn’t I include in my cover letter?
Cover letters are a lot like first impressions: You only get one, and it has quite a bit to do with whether you get the job or not. As you would with any part of your application, double-check your work for typos and mistakes, especially the company and hiring manager’s name.
Your CV, regurgitated
Don’t forget that your cover letter isn’t just your CV, revised. Arguably, if the information can be found in your CV in exactly the same way, it shouldn’t be included in your cover letter. Certainly, there will be times you’re mentioning a role or responsibility that they'll read about in more detail but your cover letter is what connects your CV directly to their needs.
Cliche phrases such as ‘to whom it may concern’, ‘I’m a self-starter’, ‘as you can see on my resume’ aren’t just boring, they’re impersonal and the purpose of a cover letter is exactly the opposite. You’re trying to speak directly to the hiring manager about yourself, so try not to speak in phrases that put you in a basket with a heap of other people.
Too many ‘i’ sentences
The company you’re applying to has its own needs and it’s your job to initially convince them that you’re right for the job, not the other way around. Of course, you want the job but it’s an exchange of services: they’re not going to hire you unless they feel you have something to give.
How to match your cover letter to the job
Because you’re making an attempt to personalize your cover letter to the company, put some of your research about the job and the brand to good use in your cover letter. What kind of culture does the company have? Use this to inform whether to use formal or more casual language. What kind of systems, skill or software do they use or value? Include your experience with that specific tool: if they’re looking for someone with ‘interpersonal skills’ or ‘Tableau experience’, weave that in. Are they a globally-focussed company or do they pride themselves on their small community? Try and talk to their ambitions for the role by mentioning what you know.
How should I design my cover letter?
Those applications with confusing layouts, over-technical language, and complex self-rating systems? Time to ditch them.
“No matter how professionally job seekers conduct themselves in person, a resume will not receive serious consideration if it’s difficult to read,” explains Andrew Morris, the director of recruitment agency Robert Half Australia.
Considering research suggests that recruiters spend less than eight seconds on average scanning resumes and your cover letter is the first thing they’ll read, it pays for your approach to prioritize readability over any other element on your submission.
A functional cover letter design doesn’t have to mean that your application is monochromatic and devoid of personality, nor that it’s jam-packed with elements that are irrelevant to your industry; it’s more about understanding the audience of your creation and considering this in the elements of your design.
Because readability is of the utmost importance to this particular project, for example, it’s important to prioritize layouts and templates that feature plenty of white space as well as clearly defined columns and sections so the most relevant information takes center stage for easy scanning. Similarly, you won’t opt for fonts that are so characterful that the words they’re depicting are difficult to discern. Choose something readable and sleek for this same reason; nothing overly complex or flouncy will allow recruiters to sweep through your skills more easily.
Color selection is of particular importance, too. If the job you’re applying for operates within a dependable service industry, for example, bright chartreuse might not be the best option to work into the design. Want to channel a 2020 color trend? This year is all about an earthy color palette, nodding to trustworthiness, maturity, and authenticity, thanks to its reflection of nature (see above).
The best cover letter examples
This cover letter design is friendly and approachable, with its clean, wide borders and pleasing pink shade. There’s also a subtle creative hint that encompasses the industry that the applicant is interested in—it’s a nice visual reference to both the company and the applicant.
Classic and professional, this cover letter design is the work of someone who means business. Straight to the point with an uncluttered layout, applicants using this format can cut through the noise with the clarity of this design, while also catching attention with a pop of detail down the side.
There’s nothing to contend with in regards to this simple and effective cover letter template. Although its design is subtle, it signals much more than a standard document template could, with the inclusion of a personalized logo, choice of great font and generous use of white space.
There’s no way you’ll get buried at the bottom of the pile with a cover letter like this one. If you’re in the creative industries, this bright and bold template stands out and grabs attention, while still retaining the most important functional elements of a cover letter.
Want to mix your professionalism with your creative flair? This cover letter could be a great option. With a neutral background offset with an illustrative flourish, you can say, ‘I’m unique!’ while also communicating your suitability.