Some employers require job applicants to write a cover letter and send it along their resume.
This article will serve as your guide on how to write a cover letter that will make hiring managers consider your application and give you a call back.
What is a cover letter and why do I need it?
A cover letter is a document you use, in addition to your CV, which contains an introduction of yourself.
Unlike a CV, it’s not factual in nature. You can include opinions of the company and even explain how you’re a great fit for their open role.
Most job seekers focus intently on the CV. They spend hours tweaking every word and getting it perfect. I, however, believe the cover letter deserves even more attention than the CV as this is usually the first document that hiring managers read.
As you’ll see below, a cover letter is an effective way of differentiating yourself from other candidates. Being a letter, it puts a “voice” to your application, enabling the HR manager to better understand you and your skill set even without meeting you in person yet.
Do HR managers read cover letters?
Truthfully speaking, many HR managers do have a bad habit of not reading all the application documents – this applies to both your CV and cover letter. This doesn’t mean that you stop trying.
The job search process if filled with ups and downs. But when done right, the cover letter can skyrocket your application to the top of the pile.
Should I customise my cover letter?
Spend hours customising it. Study the company you’re applying for. Zero in on the position. A tailored cover letter will stand out heaps over the competition.
How to Write a Cover Letter: Before and After
Below is a before and after version of a cover letter we made for a client of our’s for an application to Facebook. In the below images, we’ve included our comments in red to better explain our thinking before each paragraph of the cover letter.
The ‘Before’ Cover Letter
Dear Hiring Manager,
I refer to the SMB Marketing Manager position at Facebook which I saw on your careers page. I believe I would be a great fit in this role. [Everybody says that they are a great fit. How are you different?]
I’m currently working in an e-commerce startup specializing in sales of handcrafted jewellery to clients all over the world. Last year, we closed over 4 million SGD in sales through our online portal alone. As head of Digital Marketing at this firm, I played a key role in driving that sales figure. [BORING! All of this is already written in your CV. Why are you repeating it again?]
My success in the above venture has solidified my passion for digital marketing and bears testament to the contributions I am able to make to your firm. [Firstly, this is meaningless fluff. Secondly, nobody talks like this. Write your cover letter the same way you talk.]
Prior to the above stint, I worked at Grey Advertising in Jakarta. Here, I supported many digital accounts for large companies across multiple industries. Time after time I showed that I was extremely organized at handling all planning and creative aspects of my work. [Anybody can say that they’re great at their work. Instead, SHOW the reader that you’ve got the skills. Include metrics and achievements.]
I believe these are fundamental skills necessary to excel as an SMB Marketing Manager. My experience, coupled with my strong commitment, will surely prove to be valuable to both your clients and partners.
I hope to be part of Facebook’s strong sales team that continuously strives to improve the marketing landscape here in South East Asia.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I look forward to hearing from you! [This is such a boring way to end off a cover letter!]
The ‘After’ Cover Letter
Dear Facebook SMB Marketing Team,
I’m thrilled to be applying for the role of SMB Marketing Manager. [This shows both your excitement for this role and your confidence.]
With 4 years of marketing experience across Singapore and Indonesia, both as at an SMB (ad buyer) and agency (ad seller), I’ve come to understand both buyers and sellers of Facebook Ads. [This is a fantastic value proposition to show why you’re better than other candidates.]
- For the last 2 years, I’ve been Head of Digital Marketing for a small handmade jewellery e-commerce store based in Singapore. Our craftsmen in Bali made the most beautiful bespoke bracelets and necklaces. Everyone who saw our designs loved them. There was just one problem – we needed more customers!
- With a tiny marketing budget of just 2’000 USD a month, we invested all our resources into the Facebook Ad platform. I’d glad to report that it paid off handsomely. The ability to zero in on our target customer (through the demographics tool) and test different marketing campaigns to see which one resonated the most (A/B testing tool) allowed us to gain a massive ROI on our shoestring budget. Our revenues are now over 10 times larger thanks for the clients we’ve acquired on Facebook. [This paragraph is a great story to tell in your cover letter. It’s really memorable and shows your deep familiarity with the product.]
- Prior to the sparkling jewellery stint, I spent 3 years at Grey Advertising’s Digital Arm based in Jakarta. Here, I supported 15 different accounts across 6 industries, being responsible for all their online marketing spend. We were on every platform – Adwords, Facebook, Yahoo Ads, Twitter, etc. While each platform had it strengths, I personally found Facebook to be most effective at driving sales conversions, which is the only metric that mattered to our customers. [This is great for 2 reasons. 1. It communicates your familiarity with competitor products 2. You understand what really matters to the ad buyers – SALES!]
- Working at such a large agency, I learnt so much about the scientific approach to advertising. Every decision we made was driven by data. It fundamentally changed my approach to advertising when I later ran marketing for the jewellery SMB.
Having been on both sides of the table – running ads for an SMB and selling ads to large companies, I’ve developed an insider’s understanding of both parties. I’ve understood what key factors drive their decision making.
Facebook’s mission is to connect the world. Most assume it means connecting friends, but to me, Facebook is the best way for brands to connect with their audiences. [This is phrase can be found on Facebook’s careers page. ] And this applies to brands of all sizes, from large Fortune 500 companies to tiny startups. Facebook has democratized advertising. Every company with any advertising budget can now compete.
I’ve spent hours looking at videos on your website and reading employee reviews on Glassdoor. Everything I read about your company matches my own personal values. Facebook feels like the home I’ve been looking for. I think we’ll be great together. [Show that you’ve given this role plenty of thought. It’s not a random spur of the moment application.]
So, shall we add each other on Facebook? [This is a really fun, and clever way to sign off as it shows your personality.]
Tips on How to Write a Cover Letter that Stands Out
1. Do your research.
We studied facebook’s website to identify the key phrases they use to describe their own company. We then utilised these exact phrases in our cover letter. Using the same langugage as the company makes you seem like an insider.
2. Identify your competitive advantage and sell it with a narrative.
Why are you a great fit for this role? What have you done in your career history that’ll set you apart from the other applicants? In the Facebook cover letter above, our client Mike had experience as both a agency ad salesman (with Grey Advertising) and as an actual SMB user (jewellery e-commerce store). Few applicants, if any, would have such experience on both sides of the table. That’s what made Mike’s cover letter special.
3. Tell a story.
Humans love stories. It’s difficult for us to remember exact numbers or percentages, but we always remember vivid details of a story. Your cover letter isn’t meant to be a dry, boring, factual sheet. It should be filled personality. Use the letter to make your application memorable. Don’t waste the opportunity.
In this crowded field, a well written cover letter could be your trojan horse. Strategise the best approach, test it with friends and if you’re still struggling, hire a professional firm, like us.
Cover Letter Samples and Templates
Download free cover letter samples that you can use and follow which we recently produced and got our client job interviews.
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