10 tips for compelling cover letters

by K B , updated on April 8, 2011

Ten tips to make your cover letter stand out

Does your resume go better with a cover letter? Some people say no, because nobody reads them. I agree to a point. Not all recruiters read cover letters with resumes. But I think many recruiters don’t because so many cover letters they see are a bit “blah blah blah.” That’s when the  cover letter says nothing new or exciting, nor does it say anything about why the candidate wants the job, or it just repeats claims you make on your resume. In a sea of such banality, one way to make your resume cover letter stand out, is just to do a good one. You can do more than that, though. Here are 10 rules to help you write compelling cover letters to complement your resume.

Cover Letter Tips # 1.

Do your research, part 1.

Even if the job is advertised through a recruitment consultant you can still do your research. Call them and connect with them. They will probably not give you their client’s name but they may give you an outline of the challenges of the role as they see them. Your resume cover letter becomes far more engaging if you can tell the recruiter how they’ve inspired you to want to take this opportunity further.

Cover Letter Tips # 2.

Do your research, part 2.

If you know who the company is, then there is no excuse for not looking up the website, doing a thorough google and reading the linked in profile of their company executives. And that’s just as a start.

The aim of this research is for you to find some compelling reasons to want to work for that organisation and some ways that you can add value. So many people forget to say this on their cover letters.

Cover Letter Tips # 3.

You cover letter should clearly show you have read the job advertisement. The way you do this is to pick the key criteria in the advertisement and point out how you meet this in your letter.

Also use key words from the advertisement, throughout your resume cover letter. That way it has a better chance of being picked up in screening software.

Cover Letter Tips # 4.

Try to keep your cover letters to one page and three or four paragraphs.

The only real exception to this rule is if you are asked to respond to an “expression of interest.”  An expression of interest is a mini government selection criteria where you outline how you meet job criteria. Then your letter may run to two to three pages.

Cover Letter Tips # 5.

Don’t be boring. Try to keep your own voice.

Cover Letter Tips # 6.

Keep a logical format. I use “hook,” “book,” and “took.”

“hook” :- specific and memorable reasons as to why you want the role
“book” :- a coherent argument as to why you should be hired
“took”  :- what you want to happen as a result of an employer reading your letter

Cover Letter Tips # 7.

Be personal. If you have someone’s name use it. Ideally a cover letter should start with a title Ms, Mr or Mrs.

The exception to this is when informality is invited. A first name is more acceptable in an informal email, perhaps if you already have had a conversation with the contact person.

Cover Letter Tips # 8.

Type it. This sounds so basic. But I have to say this next bit because I have been asked this question.

Yes.

An application in writing generally means typed.

Cover Letter Tips # 9.

If you are submitting a posted application – then plain white paper please. Pretty pink perfumed pages or something similar are never a good idea. Your letter will be unique, but for the wrong reasons.

Cover Letter Tips # 10.

OK I’ve crammed a few things here into one rule. A cover letter should not be:

– a repeat of your resume
– a standard letter that you send out to everyone
– hard to read
– full of spelling and grammar mistakes

 

K B

Do you make one of these top 5 insanely dumb mistakes on LinkedIn? Click on this link , and we’ll send you our FREE report, PLUS some awesome tips to help you lure recruiters and employers to your LinkedIn profile.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

InterviewIQ May 11, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Top 10 tips to writing a compelling cover letter http://interviewiq.com.au/10-rules-for-c

JishJames June 7, 2010 at 3:11 am

RT @InterviewIQ: Top 10 tips to writing a compelling cover letter http://interviewiq.com.au/10-rules-for-c

John September 28, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Hi Karalyn,

I’m presently employed in government. Was approached by a Tier 1 IT multi-national non-government It organisation for a high profile role. Progressed through hour long 1st and subsequent hour long 2nd interviews with the T1 corporation without issues. Had a 15 minute face to face with the T1 client I would be working with and was told this was a “rubber stamp” process to securing the role. That 3rd interview I was constantly asked about the pressure situation that I would have in a government role in comparission to the client (a financial institution). I felt I addressed the questions and concerns leaving no doubt about my capability to handle the pressure of the role. Learned 30 minutes later that I was unsuccessful because they felt my term, not my current role, with government would not prepare me to handle the pressure of this role. I have only been with this government role for 3.5 years the remainder of my 30 years has been predominately with non government. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. I was wondering have you had persons approach you on this and if so what are some of the successes to overcome these challenges?

InterviewIQ October 23, 2010 at 6:25 am

#resumes #coverletters For success on the job hunt follow 10 rules for compelling cover letters http://interviewiq.com.au/10-rules-for-c

tekiebelu October 24, 2010 at 7:11 am

RT @InterviewIQ: #resumes #coverletters For success on the job hunt follow 10 rules for compelling cover letters http://interviewiq.com.au/10-rules-for-c

jcascone November 3, 2010 at 11:13 am

RT @InterviewIQ: #resumes #coverletters For success on the job hunt follow 10 rules for compelling cover letters http://interviewiq.com.au/10-rules-for-c

InterviewIQ November 3, 2010 at 5:55 am

#resumes #coverletters For success on the job hunt follow 10 rules for compelling cover letters http://interviewiq.com.au/10-rules-for-c

Mercedes December 17, 2010 at 4:16 pm

I will like to tell me please how can I obtained a book where can shoul me how to do a lleter of presentation. I been working as a cleaner for 6 yearsand I moved of state and at the presente I will lije to introduce my self to the companys of cleaner MY ENGLIS IS NO TO GOOD TO WRITE I CAN FROM, FROM PERU
TANKKYOU MERCEDES

karalyn December 18, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Hi Mercedes, Send me an email and I will send you some examples. Karalyn

Lee November 30, 2011 at 11:09 am

Tip 11: for those who wonder should I or shouldn’t I, make certain that you include a cover letter every time you send out your resume! It’s basic business etiquette.

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: