I vividly remember writing my first cover letter. I was perplexed, there was so much I felt I could say but I wasn’t sure what to prioritise or where to start. Naturally, I binged on “How to write a Cover Letter” articles as I searched for direction. I scraped together a one-page document and submitted it as a cover letter. Since then, I have written and edited more cover letters than I can count as a Career Development intern and a budding young professional.
I have come to understand that writing a cover letter is essentially telling a story. More specifically, it’s about telling your professional story through which you carefully position yourself as the most ideal candidate for the role.
That still sounds a bit abstract so I’ve broken it down into three key questions. A powerful cover letter frames your story such that it answers these three key questions:
1.Why are you interested in this company?
Of all the companies in the world, why are you applying for this one? I know you don’t always have a deep attachment to the company you’re applying to and sometimes it’s just one of many on a list. Even if that is the case, it’s important to take time to understand what’s unique about this company (whether it be its mission, experience or culture) that attracts you to it and places it, even marginally, above other companies in its industry.
This section is particularly important if you’re applying to a big brand which likely gets thousands of applicants, many of whom solely want to be affiliated with the company and its brand. To stand out, you need to show an appreciation for the company that goes beyond its strong reputation and is rooted in the core identity of the company.
2. Why are you interested in this specific role?
At this stage, the reader understands why you are attracted to this company but why are you applying for this particular role? What do you perceive the key skills of this role to be? What potential impact do you envision making if given this role? This section is an opportunity to exhibit that you understand the expectations of the role and then take it one step further by painting a picture of how you, given the role, can go beyond the job description and positively impact the company.
3. Why should the company select you over all other applicants?
What skills have you acquired that uniquely position you to succeed in this role? What characteristics and soft skills do you possess that make you an invaluable addition to the company? In this section, it’s important to sway away from saying things such as “I am better than all other applicants because of xyz”. Rather, expand on experiences from your resume which show the reader that you are capable and inclined to succeed in this role. Try to avoid explaining small details of your past experiences and instead elaborate on the skills you learned and the results you achieved.
While answering these questions, the key aspects of a killer resume still apply. Namely, storytelling, brevity with a focus on impact and attention to detail. Cover letters should generally be one page and no typos or grammatical errors should be present.
The letter should flow and it should not seem like you were simply answering a list of questions. To take it one step further, I usually format my cover letters to align with the company’s branding (do this with caution as you do not want to come across as unprofessional).
Below, I have attached one of the cover letters which I used to apply to and secure one of my internships. I hope reading it helps you see how to apply to concepts detailed above.
As usual, let me know if you have any further questions and use #moredetails if you’d like me to elaborate on something.
Thanks for reading! 🙂