A cover letter is a letter of introduction which is generally sent along with your résumé for a job application. The letter generally covers a self-introduction addressed to potential employers which explains your suitability for the desired role and company. We have spoken to many employers. Who cites that a personalized and thoughtfully written cover letter is one of the key methods used to screen out applicants. Who are not sufficiently motivated or lack the necessary skills for their role.
What we have learned from helping a variety of candidates. Across different job sectors are that there are common elements in an effective cover letter. i.e. There are proven structures and templates which can significantly increase the effectiveness of your cover letter. In appealing to your prospective employer.
A typical cover letter structure looks something like this.
01. Personal information:
Every cover letter should start with some key personal information similar to a formal business letter. This should at least include the following.
Your email address and a date.
Optionally you may also add any professional titles. Your home address and links to your professional website or LinkedIn profile.
02. Formal address:
You should address your cover letter directly to the specific individual who will read it if possible. This is because you need to understand that prospective employers generally go through a lot of letters. A letter that is directly addressed to them. It makes them feel they are reading something tailored specifically for them. And which will be more interesting to them? Good examples of professional cover letter greetings may include Dear David, Dear Mr. Harris, Dear Miss Kim.
03. The opener:
Be specific about the purpose of your letter right from the start. The key to the first paragraph is to catch the hiring manager or H.R. Person’s attention so they will read on. This essentially involves answering two questions.
Why should the employer choose you? And why would you suit the role?
Why do you want to work in the role and for the company?
There are several effective strategies for your open. You may highlight your achievements. Show how well you know the prospective employers’ needs and the requirements of the job role. Or present some of your enthusiasm for the role. These will be discussed in the case study examples below.
04. The second paragraph:
After your opener, you should get straight into answering the first of the two questions. Why should the prospective employer choose you? The technique is to focus on demonstrating how you meet most of the job requirements and the company’s specific needs. This may include showing that you are an expert in your field. And linking that to how this experience will help you thrive in the prospective role. As there may be other experiences and skills you have. Which although may not be directly relevant for the role. You might still be positive to include in your cover letter. This would include achievements such as stand standout academics. Or extracurricular accolades which paint a more vivid picture of who you are to the prospective employer.
05. The third paragraph:
The next paragraph should answer the second of the two questions. Why do you want the role? There are several considerations here which you need to note down. Firstly, you need to demonstrate that you are motivated to work for the company and with the team. This gives the sense that you will stay with the company for a longer period which is an important point for them. Showing you understand the company. Their strategy or any new products or development. Which show that you have shown interest at an early stage.
Secondly telling them something about your overall career goals will support your case and lets the employer know that this role makes sense as part of your wider career path. Thirdly, if possible leverage some of the skills and experiences you have in the past. The fact that you can contribute right away can be a strong case as to why you feel like the row is very well suited for you.
And fourthly leading on from the last point it goes a long way to highlight that you realize. There are lots to learn from the role and therefore you look forward to the opportunities to further develop your skills and career. The key to all the points is for you to show the prospective employer why you want this job and not just any other job.
06. Closing paragraph:
For your closing paragraph, you want to strengthen the positive impression you have made throughout your cover letter around the two main points.
Number one you can add value to the team and company. And number two you want the role. After you have painted the positive impression you can end the letter by simply telling the prospective employer. That you are looking forward to meeting in person and discuss how your skills experience and knowledge can help them and the company in the future to fulfill their immediate needs and long term objectives.
07. Formal closing:
After writing the contents of your cover letter. All you need is to put a formal closing at the end of your cover letter. Some standard sample cover letter sign offs would include thank you, kind regards, sincerely and with best regards.
Real-life template & case study:
Legal- cover letter:
We will review the application of an individual who is a law school student and in her final year at university in the UK. We will take a look at her cover letter to support her application to the legal graduate program.
The candidate starts more of a self-introduction of our current position as a final year student. And the role she is applying for within the company. She uses her meeting with one of the partners at a career talk to distinguish her opening and cite that as a key reason for her interest in applying for the role. This is a strong opening and links well to her work experience as a career as a coordinator at the university.
In her second paragraph, the candidate explores why she is a good fit for the role. She supports her resumé in regards to her leadership positions at university and the university careers society experience. She goes into a bit more detail as to the leadership and teamwork capabilities. Developed during this time as well as negotiation and decision-making skills. She concludes that her creative thinking makes her confidence in her ability to think on her feet and come up with solutions for different problems which is one of the key requirements for the role.
The third paragraph focuses on why the row is a good fit for her. She does well in being specific as to which sectors she wants to start in. Namely real estate and links this to some of her prior experiences in the area. She shows her eagerness to learn more about the legal sector and cites this as a reason she would like to join a graduate program with flexibility to let her explore different sectors at different stages of her career path.
She concludes by highlighting her confidence in solving complex problems and building on client relationships. The candidate ends her cover letter with a summary sentence on why she wants to work for the firm and her confidence that she can learn quickly and strive in the role.
Overall this is a very strong cover letter that supports the candidate’s resume may very well. She starts with her interaction with one of the firm’s partners which is a very positive action. Speaking to relevant employees of the company you are applying to is something we encourage all candidates to try and do before their application. As it not only helps you understand the company more but also supports the fact that you are interested in applying.
Finally, the candidate has painted a strong impression as to her various capabilities and the foundation she has already built-in starting a career path in the legal sector.
Startup- cover letter:
We continue with the cover letter of our startup job applicants who are applying for a community manager role in a coworking space. The candidate starts with a strong opener to highlight his current experience as an assistant community manager. At the same time, he directly expressed interest in taking a step forward by joining the company and taking on more responsibilities. This establishes the main theme of the application.
The candidate does well to open up his second paragraph in the cover letter with a mention of his prior experience. Which is extremely relevant and tangible results to demonstrate how he has outperformed during a short period. He also supports the success by outlining the drivers behind the rental occupancy increase based on the various community engagement events he led and organized as this forms a fundamental part of the role he is applying for.
Provide a summary
The candidates provide a summary of why he is interested in the role of citing the international presence of the workspace. As well as the potential to further learn from the best practices the company has developed overseas, has a point of improvement. This paragraph could include concrete examples of specific successes or best practices that the candidate has observed in the news. Or via publicly available information. This would demonstrate that the candidate has developed an initial understanding of the business model. And operations of the company which is quite important as the candidate works in the same sector. And it is common for prospective employers to expect some more specific sector and company knowledge.
Overall this is a well-written cover letter that supports the candidate’s application. The opening was strong with a focus on his exceptional track record and the candidate uses his premium hospitality experience to tailor for the stakeholder management skills requirements very well. Since this is an application for a promotion role it is likely that most other candidates also have the same background. As such he could have done more in the cover letter to highlight more physics knowledge in the industry and any company-specific information he might have learned.
Banking- cover letter:
We continue with the cover letter of our banking job applicants. Who is applying for an associate row in a top tier investment bank? The candidate starts with an informative opener where he immediately states. His current position as an MBA candidate but quickly links this to the fact he has recently completed a summer internship at a boutique investment bank. Which has helped him build up relevant skills and experiences for the role he is applying for.
Explaining his leadership
He subsequently cites this as a driver for his motivation to pursue his postgraduate career path in investment banking. And in particular with a first investment bank. The candidate ties together his education and work experience to build up the relevant skillset the prospective employer wants to see.
He begins by explaining his leadership position as a business school finance club. And a note to his aspiration within the sector and how he was able to network his way into an investment banking internship. His life deal experience allowed him to build relevant skills. Such as financial modeling managing the due diligence process and dealing with the clients. He brings in his prior experience at accounting first to strengthen his story. He concludes with how this has led him to be very interested in a career path in investment banking.
Focuses on explaining
The candidate’s second paragraph focuses on explaining his understanding of the first investment bank. And how he is especially keen to further his experience in advising on inbound acquisitions in china. Which is one of the job scope highlighted? As a suggestion, he could have cited more specific examples. Such as recent deals that were completed by the bank in the sector to highlight his background knowledge as well as interest in the firm.
Concludes a summary
He concludes a summary of how he is well equipped with the hard and soft skills required to contribute to the role quickly. Although this is a simple statement. It does well to reinforce this impression. Which the employer would have gotten throughout reading his resume and cover letter.
Overall this is a well-written cover letter that supports the candidate’s application. The opening was good to quickly summarize his current position. But also highlights relevant job experience. And the candidate uses a combination of education and work experience to cover most of the skills required.
While the candidate will likely be competing with other candidates who will have direct investment banking experience starting as an analyst in other banks. We feel that he has done well to put together what he has based on his personal experience. And the only area of suggested improvement will be to detail more information about the company to demonstrate his interest and knowledge of the role.
I hope now you have a complete idea of how to write a good cover letter.
Here I have some sample cover letter resource files for you.