The cover letter is your chance to show why you are more competent and motivated than others for the position. One could describe it as a sales letter showcasing your values and how these would benefit the company. Importantly, the cover letter should be tailor-made for the job in question. If you attempt to make the same application for several companies at once, there is a big chance that this will be spotted right away and you will be at a disadvantage in concern to your competition!
It is important that you do your research on the job, company and industry prior to writing the cover letter. Therefore it is a good idea to search the web and contact people in your network who may be familiar with the company or the business. It can be a good idea to find four or five of the most relevant criteria in the job posting and integrate those in your cover letter.
Unless otherwise requested, you should send your application in the local language. Moreover, you should always attempt to address your cover letter to a specific person. It is considered impolite to simply write “Dear Sir/Madam”. In Sweden, it’s common to start the letter off with a heading addressing the company, position and/or reference number found in the job post.
As a general rule, the cover letter should not fill more than one page. You really need to have something important to say if you go up to two pages. Typically it contains three or four paragraphs. Generally, you should avoid long and complex sentences, rather you should ensure that your writing is clear and comprehensible. You could beneficially use an active voice rather than a passive voice. Most importantly, the cover letter should be easy to read for the employer.
An application letter contains the following points (typically in this order):
- A compelling headline: Such as “Committed Key Account Manager applying for a sales position at Graduateland”. Some applicants have also had tremendous success with catchy headlines such as “Can communication skills save lives?” and “Lend me your eyes for three minutes – later I also need your ears”. Naturally, the headline, as the rest of the cover letter, should match the type of company you are applying for. The writing would naturally be more formal when applying to Maersk or a ministry than a media agency or startup.
- Describe your motivation for applying for this job: What has made you apply for the job. Why are the company and industry interesting?
- Describe why you are the right candidate for the job/ how you fulfil the job criteria: Focus on how the workplace will benefit from hiring you. This is also a good platform to address the criteria in the job ad. You could benefit from displaying that you’ve read through the job posting meticulously and understand what is required from the position.
- Describe experiences that relate to those listed in the job advertisement: Think about the experiences you have gained through student jobs and courses, and how these can be related to the job in question. If applicable, it could be to your advantage to write the number of years you’ve worked with different kinds of tasks. Examples make your application more lifelike!
- How do you fit personally with the job/company: Call attention to your personal competencies in the same way you’ve accentuated your professional competencies – ensure that you highlight those that are of relevance to the job and the competencies sought after in the job ad.
- To end the letter in a nice, polite way is of the essence. It’s common to for instance encourage future correspondence or thanking the reader for their time.
It is important that you ditch an exposition of your career course in the cover letter – leave this for the CV. Similarly, you should restrain from mentioning your study programme or current work as the first thing – unless there are specific requirements to the applicant.
If you feel that you need a more general intro into how to write a great cover letter, read Graduateland’s tips and tricks.