Unsure about your cover letter format? About how to structure your arguments in your cover letters?
You have come to the right article: we're about to present 8 steps to writing a winning cover letter, section by section.
Let's dive right in!
If you already have upcoming interviews, check out our recent article about how to impress your interviewer.
Elements of your cover letter outline
Cover letter subject line
Academic background (depending on your level of relevant experience)
Stay with us and read how to go about each section below.
1. Create a professional header
Top left of the header
This is where you include all your personal details and contact information. Ensure not to forget any of these as they will provide easy ways to reach out to you if the recruiter is interested.
In addition, it just looks professional and is common practice, better to play it safe.
Make sure to include:
Your name, surname
Bottom right of the header
This is where you include the company's details. Again, while this is common practice, it also shows you researched where the company is based, and who the HR manager is.
Make sure to include:
To whom the letter is addressed (hiring manager's name and title)
Company address (including the street, postal code, city and country)
2. Add a cover letter subject line
This is another important element of your professional cover letter outline: make sure to include a complete subject so the recruiter knows what the letter is for.
Make sure to include:
By writing a tailored title, you also show you took the time to write a cover letter specifically addressed to this particular company. This shows you didn't simply forward the same cover letter to dozens of companies, which many recruiters will appreciate.
RE: Application – Business Consultant – The Lamp Company
3. Write a captivating cover letter introduction
Start with a strong first paragraph. By writing a captivating and impactful cover letter introduction, you'll immediately catch the attention of your reader and encourage them to read further.
From a mindset standpoint, write the introduction as if your entire cover letter depended on this one paragraph: this is how much you want to impress the hiring manager with a few lines only.
Introduce yourself and present your career objective in no more than 2 or 3 sentences.
Make sure to include:
Your enthusiasm and interest in the position
Your level of experience (include a specific number of years)
Your current professional situation (job title + company); if you're a student: the programme you are completing or are about to finish
A formal sentence stating your application to the job posting
We will be saying this a lot throughout the article: make sure to tailor your cover letter introduction as much as you can by specifically naming the hiring manager, the job and the company to which you're applying.
Avoid starting with "Dear hiring manager" if you managed to find the person to whom you'll be addressing the letter.
4. Summarise your career plan/aspirations
Very often, recruiters want to know where you're going more than where you've been. It's important for you to describe your career plan, and vision, and how the company you're applying for is a part of these.
In addition, we all prefer dealing with people who kind of have a plan, right? It demonstrates clarity and coherence and it is simply more trustworthy.
If you're unsure about your career plan, describe how your aspirations are aligned with the company's values (you'll very likely find these on their company website!). This is a way to establish rapport with your reader, the hiring manager who will be judging whether you're a good fit for the team.
5. Showcase your professional experience
Another core part of your cover letter outline: highlighting your relevant professional experience for the job. Important emphasis: relevant professional experience.
Make sure to thoroughly read through the job description and identify exactly what the job entails and which of your experiences and professional achievements could constitute an advantage for you.
Ask yourself the following questions and summarise the main ideas in a few lines:
Which achievements are relevant to this job posting?
Which are the transferable skills that could be applied from these past achievements in the position aimed for?
Can these achievements be quantified?
Do previous projects include working with actors and stakeholders with which the targeted company also works?
6. Present your academic background
The extent to which you need to elaborate in this section largely depends on the amount of relevant work experience you possess for the job.
Situation 1: Little or no relevant professional experience (less than 1 year)
If you're applying for a Marketing Coordinator job and have no or very little experience (1 year or less) in Marketing but completed a Marketing degree, allocate more effort to describing your academic achievements and courses relevant to the job.
Situation 2: Sufficient professional experience (more than 1 year)
If you're applying for a Marketing Coordinator job and have relevant professional experience (e.g.: 1+ years of experience during which you have worked on many projects and had many responsibilities), you may want to allocate more space to describing these professional projects, responsibilities, and achievements.
In a nutshell, professional experience gets priority!
Disclaimer: This is not a hard rule!
The above is not a hard rule. These indications are to help you assess how much content you should allocate to describing your academic background.
If you have achieved a lot and possess a lot of relevant professional experience within only 6 months of working in Marketing, the professional experience gets priority.
7. Incorporate your skills in the cover letter
We talked about transferable skills earlier. In a similar way to finding relevant projects and achievements from previous professional experiences, it is crucial for you to identify which skills the company is seeking for this position and whether you have these skills at your disposal.
If you're applying for a job similar to the one you have right now, or similar to your field of study, it is very likely you'll possess these skills.
If you don't possess these skills, highlight other skills you may have that are relevant to the job, and explain how these will be of value to your prospective employer.
Smoothly incorporate your skills into your cover letter body
This is important: you cannot list your skills as you do in your CV. In addition to making them less impactful, it also seems a bit lazy and "untailored".
An easy way to incorporate skills into your cover letter outline is to allocate one skill per professional experience or achievement. Explain these particular skills led you to perform and reach your objectives!
"I notably contributed my value chain analysis, qualitative research, and analytical skills to a green e-commerce funding approach project in Ghana. I am also proud to have successfully drafted, submitted, and won several tenders with major institutions such as the International Trade Centre and the United Nations."
Make sure to include soft skills and hard skills
The job posting description will list sought soft skills and hard skills most of the time. If it doesn't make sure to present a few of both anyway. Incorporate them into your cover letter outline as described above.
8. Write an impactful conclusion
Finish as impactfully as your started. Remind your reader why you're the person for the job and how your previous professional experience and academic background will be of value to the company and the role.
Make sure to:
Mention the company again
Mention the role again
Mention the team/department you would be working with
Your conviction that you can bring value to the team
Finish with a formal greeting
This will leave a great impression on your reader: you will have tailored your cover letter until the very end!
Unsure about your cover letter?
Please feel free to schedule a feedback call with us so we can take a look at your cover letter and offer our expert opinion. We can also take care of writing a winning cover letter for you (one that lands interviews)!
In the meantime, best of luck with your job search and feel free to check out more of our articles and career tips.