How to Write a Standout Cover Letter
As someone who has changed jobs multiple times over three years, I have written my fair share of cover letters for publishing. I also worked in recruitment and have had to read many-a cover letter in my time.
Because of this, I have a bit of experience when it comes to writing a standout cover letter. So here are my top tips.
How to format your letter:
When it comes to formatting a cover letter keep it simple. Stick with your standard Times New Roman or Arial font at size 12. Make sure to split your points into paragraphs, with no more than six paragraphs per page.
Each paragraph should hold a point and remember, this is you telling the reader why you’re the best person for the job, not just how good you are at your current position. If you’re so good at your current position surely you would stay there? Why do you want to get this new position and what can you bring to the table? And what do you want to learn?
Common mistakes to avoid:
Never and I mean never start a cover letter with Dear Sirs, even if the job you’re applying for has an all-male manager line up. Don’t do it. Find out the person you’re applying to’s name or use the company’s name and HR afterward.
Proofread your cover letter! This is a step that is so often skipped – BUT DON’T!
Honestly, I have so many horror stories about this. From the person who forgot to delete their track changes, so I could see every company they had ever applied to in their cover letter. To the person who constantly referred to the wrong job and company.
You’ll be told not to use the same cover letter for every job, but even I know that no one has time to write a fresh cover letter every time they apply for a job. But make sure each is at least tailored to the position you’re applying for.
- Don’t use the wrong job title or company name
- Make sure you highlight the skills that the job description specifically calls for – and each job spec is different! For example, a digital company will value digital skills over your ability to do calligraphy
- Use the correct name at the top of the letter
How long should it be?
Never go over two pages in length, but honestly try and stick to one page. No one has the time to read a cover letter that goes on for ages – particularly if they’ve received a lot. Recruiters want to see who you are, what you can bring, and why you want the job. They don’t care if you have a new blog – unless it is relevant to the job – are a champion polo player or once worked at New Look.
What are your objectives?
You want the job. So pitch yourself for the job, but also give them a reason to pitch to you.
I go by the 75/25 rule. 75% of your cover letter should be about why you’re the best person for the job but the other 25% should be addressing what you want to learn from the job. If you get an interview I guarantee you that the interviewer will ask you about this 25%.
For example, if you are applying for a job as an editorial assistant in publishing and you have multiple internships but have never learned about the structural editing process then bring that up in an inquisitive manner.
Just because you don’t know everything yet that doesn’t mean it is a negative, the fact that you bring it up in your cover letter shows two things:
- You’re proactive in wanting to learn
- You’re honest
Never underestimate these two things when it comes to finding a job. At the end of the day, these are two of the most important qualities in any colleague or employee.
Things to remember:
- Proofread your cover letter – every time! Don’t skip this step. I promise you, you don’t want to be that cover letter that people remember for the wrong reasons.
- Never use Dear Sirs
- Pitch for the job but also ask what the company can offer you – 75/25
- Be succinct when highlighting what skills you have
I hope that helps you with your job search and I wish you the best of luck!