Tips and Tricks for Writing your Cover Letter


The sheer volume of submissions can make it tough to read all of the applications in detail. So, in an effort to grab the attention of a potential employer or recruiter, here are a couple of tips we’d recommend for your cover letter.


  • Stand Out. 


Find ways to articulate what makes you stand out. Ask yourself whether the sentence you’ve written is a sentence that everyone else would write. If it is, scrap it.


  • Personalise. 


Ideally, when we read your cover letter, we want to walk away feeling like we know you a little bit better. It’s not to say you have to chat to us like a friend, but we like to get the feeling that we got an authentic read on the type of person you are. Remember, as much as you want a job, you also want to be sure that the company is right for you too. If you’ve been authentic (about what you want, what motivates you, what makes you happy), you'll more likely land in a role that's a great fit for you.


  • Brevity. 


Bear in mind that we read A LOT of applications, CV’s, and cover letters. Be concise. Of course if it’s immensely compelling and well written, then we don’t mind if it’s a little longer.


  • Content.  


Understandably, people have a hard time coming up with a compelling hook for their cover letter. While you might take an interesting or humorous tone or slant, your cover letter shouldn't feel gimmicky. Exercise judgment here. Ask yourself a couple of questions: Is there a personal reason why you’re applying? Is there an angle or approach to the job that is interesting? Do you have a reason why you love the company so much, or find that it’s such an ideal fit? Spell out why you want to work there. If it’s a company you love, but a position you’ve never had before, considering telling the story of your transferable skill set.





And here's What Not to Do


None of these are written in stone, but here are a few things to think about:


  • One of the most common mistakes we see on CVs is that people have a tendency to use the same old words. By this we mean words that everyone uses (and overuses) to describe themselves. These words soon start to become meaningless. Think about the words you use and ask yourself if they are actually adding any value to your sentence before including them. Do the words that you are using uniquely describe you?


  • This is funny, but common. Many people include a section called “Additional Skills” on their CV in which they include things like Microsoft Word, Email, or Excel. Take these out. At this point in time, it’s a given that most people have these skills! If you are knowledgeable in a highly specialised software, this is the place to put it, but if it’s something that many candidates know how to use, then it doesn’t belong there.   

  • Keep school details out of it (unless there is something particularly unique or compelling). We’ve seen GCSE’s on CVs for people who have been working for many, many years.  


  • Don’t lie about your skills. We love reading interesting things about candidates, like proficiency in a martial art or fluently speaking multiple languages. However, don't overstate these. For instance, if you are a Web developer, only list the sever-side languages that you are prepared to work in (or disclose varying levels of expertise). If you claim expert-level knowledge and are tested on it but can't answer, it makes us doubt the legitimacy of the rest of your experience.   


  • Don’t weigh down your CV. If there is something that you can say in five words, don’t use twelve.   


  • Don’t blanket send your CV and apply to 9 different roles within one company. Choose one or two positions that are relevant and craft a targeted CV, cover letter, and objective.  


  • This may seem insanely obvious, but proofread your CV and cover letter over and over again. You can’t claim attention to detail if you have errors in either of these. We get so many cover letters that are obvious templates and are addressed to the wrong company! It would be a shame to have a great cover letter and CV, but errors that distract from the content. Some companies take typos more seriously than others.


  • Don't send links to your LinkedIn profile, personal blog, website, Facebook page, etc. UNLESS these links add insight and value to your application. Is your LinkedIn profile fully fleshed out? Exercise good judgement; what would a potential employer want to see?


  • Clean up your social media profiles. Be aware of how you might come up in a search on Google. Know what is visible to the public about you on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Alter your privacy settings if you need to. Better to not be evaluated on anything other than your on-point application, great experience, and polished interview skills. 


Coming up next week in our Guide to Getting Ahead, some helpful tips for interviews....


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