How To Write A Cover Letter: Cover Letters Explained

how to write a cover letter

Should I even write a cover letter?  Do I even need to send one?

As a hiring manager dating back 20 years, one thing that irks me more than anything is the lack of a cover letter (especially when I’ve asked for it) or worse, a blatant lack of thought on the cover letter (think “nothing would be better than a half-baked job”).  Many people are still confused by the cover letter and lack an understanding of the importance they play in the job enquiry process.  So what is a cover letter exactly? Well this is Google’s take on it

A letter or written communication that serves to introduce an accompanying document; especially, a letter that introduces a résumé or curriculum vitae.

And how important is it, well here’s some more Google goodness for you

91 percent of executives polled said cover letters are valuable when evaluating job candidates – Robert Half survey

So now we’re all on the same page about what a cover letter is and it’s importance, let’s look at how to write one that almost guarantees you get your foot in the door.  You need to write a cover letter that addresses all the points below.

1. What role are you applying for and why?

While it’s probably obvious, just in case you were not sure, I think it’s best to start off with what you are applying for and why it caught your attention e.g “I am applying for the role of administration assistant advertised 23/8/2015 on the School Hours website”.  From there explain why this role appeals to you.  Some examples are

  • I was instantly drawn to this role because…
  • This role really stood out to me because…
  • I felt compelled to apply for this role because..
  • The role looks perfect for me because…

2. Why should the employer want to know more about you?

Your opening few paragraphs need to draw the reader in quickly, so you need to be on your game.  Do you bother reading a story with a crappy start?  No you don’t; you put it down and move on quickly and so do recruiters, HR staff and hiring managers.  1 – 2 short sentences will do here and they need to be straight to the point

  • This role seems to be very well suited to me with my experience in an almost identical role with XYZ company.
  • I feel like my work with product XYZ would make for a natural transition into the advertised role.
  • With my in-depth knowledge of the XYZ industry, I think that I would be a ideal candidate for this role.

3. Experience and skills highlights

When you are striving for the perfect cover letter, provide a few bullet points to highlight your experience and skills as they directly relate to the experience and skills being asked for in the job listing.  This will immediately interest the reader.  Be warned though, being bullet points this may well be one of the first places the reader’s attention is drawn to, so make it good!

4. Close the deal

Alright if they’re still reading at this point (and didn’t skip straight to your resume because you are so awesome) you need to seal the deal in the final paragraph. Don’t beat around the bush here, be straight to the point and ask for the interview.  Some closing options would be

  • I’m excited about this role and would love to meet in person to further discuss my experience and the value I can offer as your next administration assistant. Please call me on <your phone number> to schedule an interview.
  • I would love a personal interview at your earliest convenience to further discuss my credentials with you. I can be reached at <your phone number> and I will follow up as well to make sure you’ve received my information.
  • I am very excited to learn more about this opportunity and share how I will be a great fit for XYZ Corporation. Call me on <your phone number> to arrange an interview.

5. Bonus tip: Subtly Paraphrase

Wherever possible use language similar to that of the job listing, but stop short of parroting or at least use it sparingly.  If the listing says “Our company is seeking a highly motivated and results driven individual who prides themselves on the delivery of exceptional customer service” your response would ideally use important excerpts, in this case you might mention “highly motivated”, “results driven” or “customer service”.  Some good example responses would be

  • With 5 years experience delivering exceptional customer orientated service with company XYZ have prepared me well for the role you are describing.
  • I am a driven professional who strives for results that exceed expectations of all stakeholders at all times.

6. Bonus, bonus tip: The left-fielder

The “left-fielder” is a much-shortened cover letter; it still contains all the crucial components, opening paragraph referencing the advertised position, the core which demonstrates why the reader should look into what you have to offer further and the catchy close, however the core is drastically reduced in size.  Aim to condense the “why, experience &  skills” into a single paragraph, even a single sentence to save both you and the reader time.  The “left-fielder” isn’t traditional, but in a competitive job market, it may provide you with a point of difference to get an interview.

I hope you found these tips useful.  Let us know if you have any to add via comments below.  If any really resonate with us we’ll be sure to use them in future cover letter advice.  And if use any of the tips, especially the “left-fielder”, we’d love to hear how you go with them.


Leigh Grigaliunas

Leigh is an owner and co-founder of School Hours Pty Ltd.Leigh's passion for helping others coupled with his desire to achieve a balance between raising children and earning a living, lead him to create School Hours Pty Ltd with his wife Yasmin.School Hours will be the place to go for Australian parents wanting to connect with progressive thinking, family friendly employers.

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