How to write a good cover letter
Writing a good cover letter is one of the biggest – and most surprising – challenges facing job-hunting graduates.
You see, if you’re preparing to apply for a particular job role, you could find that the listing specifically requests that you include a cover letter with the job application. Writing a good cover letter can be pretty frustrating, especially when you’ve spent all that time perfecting your CV and making sure your application is a match made in recruitment heaven.
Although cover letters are less prevalent than they used to be, especially in our areas of expertise, cover letters can sometimes catch us out before we hit ‘send’ on a well-crafted response.
As such, it’s good practice to learn how to pen a really decent one, as you’ll never know when you might need it.
In this guide, we’ll give you all the tips, tricks and handy how-to’s when it comes to writing a great cover letter – straight from the minds of our leading team of recruitment experts.
We’ll talk about:
- What a cover letter is
- How it can complement your CV
- What hiring managers look for
- How to write a good cover letter that’ll get you the job
- How Timberseed can help you with your job search
- And more!
So let’s dive in.
What makes a successful cover letter?
As an introduction to the job application as a whole, a good cover letter can help you to make a positive first impression on potential employers.
In essence, a cover letter can essentially be used as a pre-CV sales pitch, as it makes a case for why you’re going to be the most suitable person for the position.
As such, your cover letter should focus on those parts of the CV that would be especially relevant to the role. This document can elaborate on aspects of your professional experience as well as examples of your skills, interests and knowledge that would help you to excel – acting like an all-singing, all-dancing taster.
So, writing a cover letter isn’t simply a case of summarising the contents of your CV. It’s more about expanding on both so that the hiring manager can get a useful overview as to your suitability for the position.
As you’ve probably guessed, writing a high-quality cover letter can be a much trickier task than you might have first expected.
To make sure you nail yours, set aside enough time while completing your application to ensure it satisfies a wide range of criteria.
The last thing you want is to ace the rest of your entry for it to be let down by a less than perfect cover letter.
As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression!
How can your cover letter complement your CV?
A cover letter is a document provided with a CV as part of a job application – as traditionally, the letter would literally cover a CV when both were sent as paper documents in the post.
These days, though, an application tends to be sent digitally via email.
A cover letter – whether printed or virtual – usually has three to five short paragraphs on one page. You should always be careful and stick to this tried-and-tested format when putting together yours, so you don’t strain the hiring manager’s attention span!
When sent electronically, over email or through an application portal, the text of a cover letter can be put either in the body of the email, in the dedicated section on the online form, or even as an attachment.
Cover letter vs CV
While cover letters and CVs ultimately have the same goal – to get you a job – they do go about it differently.
A CV essentially summarises relevant skills, qualifications and experience for the job you’ve got your eye on. It is also broken down into distinct sections to make all of the included information easy to digest.
A cover letter, meanwhile, should not duplicate a CV.
Instead, it should expand on it by adding more context and further explaining why you are a candidate worthy of consideration.
You should also not mistake the letter for the CV’s personal statement, which instead sits at the top of the CV and acts as a blurb for it. Otherwise referred to as an opening statement, the personal statement should summarise what you can bring to the job or the company.
Think of a particularly compelling cover letter as ‘sweet-talking’ the HR manager into offering an interview, getting your foot in the door and giving you that all-important opportunity to shine at the interview.
How to write a good cover letter
Before you put pen to paper – or fingers to the keyboard – make sure that you fully research the company culture. You can do this by studying the employer’s website and social media pages, which can help you strike the right tone with your letter.
In many ways, a cover letter is like a signpost – it shows both where you’ve come from and where you’re going.
So, take the opportunity to explain your future ambitions and your hopes for how the job would help you to progress towards realising them.
The key thing to remember is that cover letters need to cover a lot of ground but remain succinct. There are two pointers here – first:
- Looking out
Think about what challenges your potential employer might face. Your research should have given you an idea, enabling you to pitch how you have the relevant experience for tackling the situation.
You could even shine a light on how you have overcome a similar issue for a previous employer, making your skillset appear all the more useful in a competitive market.
- Looking in
Now onto the meaty bit. You need to convey how much you want this job, appealing to the hiring manager with your ambition and own goals. Passion is palpable, as hiring managers are drawn towards candidates who appear proactive and keen to make a difference.
The ‘be open’ part of that equation is vital – as you need to come across as authentic. One good strategy is to ask yourself how the manager would speak to customers of their company, which you can find out in your research.
As we’ll touch on next, thinking about your cover letter through the fresh eyes of someone reading it can work wonders if you’re stuck.
What do hiring managers look for in a cover letter?
Time consuming though it may be, customise each cover letter for the specific job and company. After all, no hiring manager wants to get the impression that you are applying only as an afterthought.
Instead, they will be looking for someone they would be able to slot seamlessly into the company’s existing culture.
In your letter, you shouldn’t just refer to your professional experience; you should cite how you could use it to help take the company to the next level. You should also make sure to avoid mentioning any professional skills except those applicable to the position.
Perhaps your current role has seen you honing key skills that you could utilise in the new role?
If so, bring this up in the letter, but get straight to the point. When it comes to getting down the most important details, keep things concise, using the STAR formula:
It goes without saying, but you should also proofread your cover letter as diligently as possible in a bid to cut out any spelling or grammar errors.
Every impression counts – even if it’s limited to a page.
How would you describe your skills and experience?
Naturally, different roles will call for different skills and experiences.
However, as we specialise in matching graduates to incredible roles in fintech and SaaS, we know how you should especially market your skills and experience when seeking these roles.
The relevant skills inevitably include soft skills; in other words, those ‘people skills’ and ‘interpersonal skills’ that can’t easily be quantified.
For example: good communication skills would enable a fintech worker to convey their vision and ideas to other project team members.
Meanwhile, in SaaS, one especially desirable skill is that of relationship building. After a result of growing a wide network of contacts, you can learn how to forge long-lasting relationships between your clients, helping you upsell and pass them throughout the sales funnel while promoting retention.
However, you also can’t overlook the importance of ‘hard skills’ – especially given the highly technology-driven nature of fintech and SaaS.
One good example would be database management, helping you keep track of multiple client streams and prospect channels.
Taking the time to look at your existing CV and skillset and determining which ones would shine in your chosen field will help you structure your cover letter, creating a fantastic read that makes the hiring manager want to find out more.
And on top of all this? Remember to be you!
At Timberseed, we believe your authentic self is the greatest thing you’ll have in your career toolbelt.
How can Timberseed help me in my job search?
Proudly powered by people, we’re dedicated to doing what we can to match amazing talent to employers who see that spark and will turn it into great things.
As recruitment specialists, we have an exclusive list of SaaS and fintech-based clients who often prioritise approaching us for help with filling vacancies, making us the first port of call for some of the best and brightest in these industries.
Due to our expertise with these sectors, we can provide practical advice to applicants on how to write compelling applications for a range of graduate-level jobs. After so long in the business, we know what works and what doesn’t, meaning you are in more than safe hands when it comes to getting that all-important interview.
Ultimately, in your cover letter, you want your individual self to shine through.
This is why we offer one-on-one coaching, where we can teach you how to tailor your application and show off your unique skill set.
From the opening words to the closing paragraph, our comprehensive CV help can make you stand out for the right reasons and give hiring managers an incentive to give your entire application close attention.
This is all just part of our comprehensive recruitment service for graduates – who, from the moment they initially contact us to when they are placed in their dream job, can receive tailored advice from our recruitment specialists.
To learn more about how we can assist graduates, please contact us by phone on 020 3030 5045 or via the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.