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The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Cover Letter

Posted on 15/03/2023
How To Write A Cover Letter Guide

Looking for work is a process that nobody enjoys. Job hunting generally entails scouring the internet for appropriate job postings, updating your resume and preparing for a series of exhausting interviews. For many, writing a winning cover letter is the hardest aspect of the application process. To make matters worse, most of the available advice seems to contradict one another — is it even necessary to have one?

Basically, the answer is yes. You should always send a cover letter with your resume, even if it weren't requested for a specific position. Just knowing that your cover letter was one of the two reviewed gives you a better chance of getting the job. The good news is that writing a cover letter is a lot easier than you would think.

In this article, we’ll give you the ultimate guide to writing a cover letter from our experience as recruiters. Here, we’ll go over what exactly a cover letter is and why it’s so important within the world of job hunting. As a bonus, our simple instructions, supporting examples, and helpful hints will have your letter in tip-top shape in no time at all.

What Is a Cover Letter?

Whether you're applying for a job or submitting a proposal, you should always include a cover letter to introduce yourself to the recipient. It should be tailored to the position or proposal you are applying for and usually takes up only one page.

A cover letter's goal is to show the hiring manager why you're the best candidate for the job by highlighting your relevant experience and talents. Rather than restating the content already presented in the CV or proposal, it should supplement and expand upon it.

When applying for a job or submitting a business proposal, making a good first impression on the reader is crucial. That’s why it’s essential for job seekers to write a cover letter, regardless of whether one has been requested or not.

Why Are Cover Letters Important in Recruitment?

So, we’ve mentioned that cover letters should always be made before sending off an application for a job posting and that each cover letter should be customised for every client or company that you’re looking to work for. But why exactly have cover letters become the norm in recruitment? Here are the three main reasons why:

1. Provide additional information

When combined with a resume, a cover letter can make for a very compelling application. A cover letter is a good place for a job candidate to explain a gap in their resume, such as maternity leave or time spent caring for an elderly relative. On the other hand, a cover letter can be used to draw attention to a candidate's special qualifications that aren't readily obvious from their CV.

As an added bonus, a cover letter can show your passion for the position and the organisation. Showing genuine interest in the position and the company can make a candidate more attractive. This can be done by discussing the candidate's enthusiasm for the pitch or highlighting the things the candidate values most about the organisation.

2. An opportunity to showcase communication skills

Aspiring job applicants can demonstrate their prowess with the written word by composing a compelling cover letter. An excellent cover letter should highlight the candidate's ability to express themselves clearly, concisely, and persuasively in writing. Jobs ranging from management and administration to public relations and advertising require strong writing skills — with cover letters providing the perfect opportunity to go above and beyond.

In addition, a well-crafted cover letter can highlight an applicant's professionalism and a keen eye for detail. The candidate might demonstrate diligence and pride in their job by proofreading the letter thoroughly and ensuring that it is error-free. Potential employers will find this more appealing, especially if they are searching for hardworking and dependable employees.

3. Provides the space for personalisation

Candidates can show that they have read the job description carefully and that their qualifications match it by writing a cover letter. This demonstrates to the hiring manager that the candidate has taken the time to learn about the business and the position being offered. Applicants who also include a well-written cover letter have a better chance of being hired than those who merely submit resumes.

A well-written cover letter also helps candidates answer any questions an employer may have regarding their experience and skills. If an applicant lacks a credential that is specified in the job posting, they can use the cover letter to show why they are a good fit for the position in other ways.

Good vs Bad Cover Letters

Now, it’s important when learning how to write an effective cover letter to see and learn the difference between what is considered “good” and what would be “bad”. In this section, we’ll give you two cover letter examples — let’s call them “Cover Letter A” and “Cover Letter B”. Both cover letters are written by Tim Smith, who is looking to fulfil the open Marketing Manager position at the fictional “Goods & Services Ltd” based in Dubai.

Cover Letter A…

Cover Letter B…

Which was the good cover letter?

As you might be able to tell, Cover Letter B is an example of what a good cover letter should look like. The candidate, Tim Smith, has done a great job of showcasing their qualifications and making a compelling argument for why they should be hired in this cover letter. The main reasons why it’s a good cover letter are:

  1. Personalisation: The letter is personalised and demonstrates Tim's understanding of the job and the company. It shows that he has done his research and is genuinely interested in the position.

  2. Highlights specific details: The letter provides specific information and examples of Tim's skills and experience related to the job opening. This helps to make a strong case for why Tim is a good fit for the job.

  3. Professional Writing: The letter is well-written and free of errors, showcasing Tim's strong writing skills. This can help make a positive impression on the employer and demonstrate that Tim is professional and detail-oriented.

On the other hand, Cover Letter A fails to make a strong impression and doesn't provide the employer with any compelling reasons to consider the applicant for the job. Here is why:

  1. Lack of Personalisation: The cover letter is very generic and doesn't demonstrate any understanding of the specific job or company. The language used is also extremely monotonous, and it is obvious that Tim didn’t put in any effort to research the company beforehand.

  2. No Details: The letter is brief and doesn't provide details or examples of Tim's skills or experience. It simply restates what is already on his resume.

  3. Poor Writing: The letter is poorly written, with grammatical errors and awkward phrasing. It doesn't showcase Tim's writing skills, which is a red flag for many employers.

Steps to Writing a Cover Letter

Now you know the difference between a good and bad cover letter, it’s time to craft your own cover letter. Here are the six steps you need to follow to ensure that your cover letter successfully gets you the job you deserve.

Step 1: Do your research

Do your homework about the business and the position before composing your cover letter. Research the company's website, the job posting, and anything else that can help you grasp the company's values and expectations.

Step 2: Identify your key skills

Find out what the company values most in a candidate and tailor your application accordingly. Consider how you may best highlight in your cover letter how your unique set of talents and expertise relates to the needs stated in the job posting.

Step 3: Start strong

The first line of your cover letter should be the strongest and most attention-grabbing part. One way to show your interest in the position and the organisation is to share a story, a quote, or a comment.

Step 4: Emphasise your achievements

Within the body of your cover letter, elaborate on your experience and expertise, pointing out how they relate to the needs of the position you're applying for. Pay special attention to the requirements highlighted in the job posting and elaborate on how you possess these core skills.

Step 5: Showcase your passion

Despite what certain people may say, personality and interest in the position and organisation should always shine through in your cover letter. Express your excitement for the position and the firm by using positive language and providing specific examples from the company’s previous project, where possible.

Step 6: End on a strong note

Finally, a powerful call to action should be included at the end of your cover letter. Express your gratitude to the company for reviewing your application and your enthusiasm to continue discussing your qualifications. Be sure to provide your contact information and ask for a callback from the employer.

6 Tips For Writing a Great Cover Letter

Crafting an exceptional cover letter is more than just the steps we’ve highlighted above. From experience, we know that cover letters may seem more complicated than it really is, but it doesn’t have to be. With time, practice and initiative, we’re confident that you’ll be able to write a great cover letter in no time.

To help you develop your cover letter writing skills, we’d like to share our top tips for writing an effective cover letter. By utilising these guidelines, you should be able to create a cover letter that catches the attention of hiring managers and gets you the job you want.

1. Write a new cover letter for each job posting 

We know that it can seem tempting to copy and paste a cover letter template to use across multiple job applications, but you should avoid doing so. However, utilising a cover letter design template is a completely different story.

Each cover letter you post should be written from scratch according to the job posting and company you’re looking to work for. Take some time to read over the job posting and make a list of the most important qualifications. Then, adjust your cover letter to focus on how your qualifications meet those needs. Provide concrete instances from your prior job experience to prove your competence.

2. Personalise your cover letter

You should never start your cover letter with "To whom it may concern" or any other generic greeting. If possible, research the company's website or email the hiring manager/recruiter directly to find out their name and address your cover letter and resume to them personally. 

Showing that you've taken the time to learn about the organisation and the role sends a strong message to hiring managers.

3. Be concise

Your cover letter should be brief and to the point. Try to keep it to a single page and cut out any unnecessary information. Make the writing more readable by using bullet points or short paragraphs to separate your main points.

4. Look to the future

A CV is designed to be a retrospective look at your past accomplishments and roles. Your cover letter, in contrast, should be forward-looking and describe your goals for the future. When changing careers, such as from marketing to FinTech, it is appropriate to address the reason for the change in your cover letter. Look at it as a chance to advertise the talents that can be used in other contexts.

5. Highlight your aligned values

It’s important to highlight where your personal values align with that of the company and be sure you express your excitement for the position and the company in your cover letter. Justify your application by outlining your interest in the role and the ways in which you think your skills might benefit the company. Be honest and detailed in your intent; don't use platitudes or sound like you're trying too hard.

6. Carefully proofread your cover letter

There’s nothing worse for a hiring manager than reading a cover letter full of monotonous language and grammatical errors. Proofread your cover letter thoroughly to ensure accuracy. Look into using a service like Grammarly or ask a friend or family member to read it over and give their opinions. Ensure your contact information is accurate and the cover letter’s formatting is consistent and professional.

Great Cover Letter Examples

As a bonus, here are two examples of well-crafted cover letters that you can use as inspiration the next time you’re looking for a new job opportunity.

1. Joining a company’s HR team

Here is a sample cover letter of “Anatasha Raheem”, an HR Specialist looking to fulfil an HR Generalist role at the fictional Lebanese company XYZ & ME.

2. For a software company

This is a sample cover letter of “Taylor Phillips”, a recent Software Engineering graduate looking to work at the fictional UAE-based software company “Supanova Software LLC”.

Final Thoughts

We hope that this guide has been helpful to you in your job search. In order to be taken seriously, your job application will not be complete without a well-written cover letter. An excellent cover letter may highlight your relevant experience, talents, and enthusiasm, making you stand out from the other applicants.

Use this guide as a starting point to craft an attention-grabbing cover letter. Before you send a letter of application, make sure you know as much as possible about the company, position, and culture as possible. Focus on the abilities and accomplishments that are most pertinent to the position, and use concrete examples to prove your worth. Maintain an upbeat and professional tone throughout, and check your letter for typos and clarity before sending it.

Keep in mind that your cover letter is a chance to make a positive first impression on a possible employer. In order to get hired, you need to impress the hiring manager with your qualifications and motivation for the work.