Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

How to Write a Compelling Cover Letter: 10 Tips

By James Ball | Jan 11, 2017 | Candidate Tips

How to Write a Compelling Cover Letter: 10 TipsIf you’re looking for a job right now, you may have noticed; it’s bloomin’ competitive out there!

Job applications rise by roughly 60% at this time of year – it’s madness.

That means YOU have to stand out.

So this month, we’re going to help you do that, starting with the basics: the cover letter.

Let’s take a look.

What to include…

1. Find out who you’re contacting.

If it isn’t clear who you’re sending your application to, it’s worth doing a little bit of research to find out.

“Dear Mrs. Brown” or “Hi Kate” (depending on the nature of the company) sounds a heck of a lot better than “To whom it may concern.”

It’ll also give you a chance to rewrite your cover letter in a way that might impress the addressee (do you have anything in common? Have they written any blogs or articles you could refer to etc.?)

2. Hook ‘em straight away.

Your first paragraph is the most important one; you have just a few seconds to grab their attention and make them want to read on (and hopefully hire you).

Don’t start with something boring and generic like “I’m writing to apply for the Digital Marketing Specialist role, as seen on your website.”

It’s boring, amateur and chances are, they already know this!

Instead, use those words (2 sentences tops) to show why you’re excited to apply for the job, why you’d be a great fit and what makes you different to everyone else! (Easy-peasy…)

Here are two great examples:

“If truly loving data is wrong, I don’t want to be right. It seems like the rest of the team at Chartbeat feels the same way—and that’s just one of the reasons why I think I’d be the perfect next hire for your sales team.” Muse

“I was thrilled to see the opportunity at Munder Difflin posted. I believe my current role would make me the perfect candidate because of my interest in marketing technology, experience managing a team and enthusiasm for the work your team has done to make the paper industry more eco-friendly.” HubSpot

These first paragraphs are much more attention-grabbing than your standard opener.

3. Sell yourself.

Your next paragraph should expand on why you think you are perfect for that job.

Pick two or three impressive examples of how you’ve benefitted and wowed your current company and how you could do that for your potential employer too.

Use stats and facts wherever possible. Saying “I made a client £100K using one email campaign,” is much more impressive than “I wrote many email campaigns.”

Recruiter Pro Tip.

Throughout your job search it’s really important that you keep in mind your personal brand. Essentially…

  • What makes you different?
  • Why would someone want to hire you?
  • And why would this company specifically want to hire you?

If you want some help getting your head around this – click here.

Remember; keep all the paragraphs in your cover letter short and sweet!

4. What about the company?

Next, you should write a paragraph detailing why you’d be excited to join that company specifically (rather than just any company in that industry).

  • What excites you about them? The culture? Their growth rate? Their product?
  • What values and mission do you share? Altruism? Care for the environment? Supporting smaller businesses?
  • Has something specific impressed you? Their website? Their event? Their clients?

Don’t go on and on and don’t get too emotive; phrases like “I just absolutely love your company, I’ve been dreaming of joining you forever…” can come across as a little false or desperate.

A couple of lines will do.

5. Include a Call to Action.

Having a call to action is important, but people rarely do.

I would round off your cover letter by thanking your recruiter for their time and consideration and then asking them to contact you with further news, for example.

  • “I’d love to talk over the phone to discuss the role in more detail.”
  • “Drop me an email if you’d like to arrange a telephone conversation.”
  • “My phone number is *** if you’d like to have a chat.”

Obviously, don’t be too pushy “call me today between 1pm and 3pm” is far too demanding!

General Advice

6. Personalise it (properly).

I know, you’ve probably heard this a million times (snore) but it really is dead important.

(And I don’t just mean change the job title, company name and greeting).

Taking some time (15 minutes will do) to check out the company website and find out what the people and culture are like should help with the content and tone of your cover letter and CV.

Recruiter Pro Tip

What if the recruiter won’t tell you who the client is?

You should call them and ask for more details.

They’ll usually be able to give away valuable information like the industry, location, size and culture of the company (sometimes this is enough to suss out who they are).

It may be hard work, but it’s definitely worth it to find your dream job!

7. Don’t repeat your CV.

Do you really think a recruiter wants to read the same thing twice?

Seriously, this is basic.

8. Include examples.

We’ve already mentioned the importance of using stats and figures (see point 3) but do you have examples of your ability that you could send with your cover letter and CV?

For example…

  • A blog post.
  • Testimonials you’ve received from happy clients.
  • Pictures of a project you completed.

Such attachments are a great way to prove just how good you are and add more to an application.

9. Use your “voice.”

We want to hire human beings that we can get along with, not robots, so if your cover letter reads like some kind of policy document, your recruiter probably won’t finish it.

If you’re lucky, they’ll check out your CV anyway, but if not, they could throw out your application, completely.

Be creative and allow your real self to shine through.

10. But don’t be too “creative.”

Friendly and casual cover letters do work for certain industries (like marketing for instance) but there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed.

(Don’t believe me? Check out this blog post.)

If you come across…

  • Arrogant. “I’m the superstar you’ve been looking for.”
  • Sarcastic. “To hear from you at your heart’s delight would be the intrigue of my day to discuss salary and additional beneficial requirements.”
  • Angry. “I have applied for 131 jobs and received 51 polite ‘no thank yous,’ 3 very rude responses and 77 no-replies.”

…it’ll leave a bad taste in your recruiter’s mouth. So be friendly, but not overbearing.

Bonus: Proofread your work.

Or get someone else to do it for you!

There’s nothing worse than a badly-written, mistake-riddled cover letter (or CV for that matter).

If you’d like some more advice on job-seeking, from cover-letters through to your first day at work, then subscribe to our blog here.

We’ll send a short weekly update with the latest!

Want some examples?

Check out these sites if you’d like some examples to work from. (Make them your own)…

Good luck.

- James Ball

James Ball

James is the founder and owner of Coburg Banks and a recruitment expert from Sutton Coldfield in the UK.  He regularly advises companies on how to improve and get the maximum ROI from their recruitment processes.

> More blog posts by James Ball

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