Cover letters are often the first impression you give a prospective employer - don’t underestimate the importance of how to write a cover letter. In marketing and creative roles, there tends to be more scope to make yourself stand out from the crowd in your cover letter.
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What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a document you send to employers to help introduce your CV. They're a great way to help you stand out from the competition and explain your motivations for applying for a role.
What to include in a cover letter
The key to a great cover letter is a strong foundation. Use this three-part structure and remember, your cover letter shouldn't be more than a page long.
Immediately tell the employer why your cover letter is relevant to them. State which role you're applying for and where you saw it advertised. It's good to mention your degree and university here too.
Your second paragraph should outline why you're applying to this particular firm. Be enthusiastic and knowledgeable and highlight their unique qualities.
Use the third paragraph to impress with your professional experience to date and explain why you're perfect fit for the job and the company.
Employers in certain industries appreciate a cover letter style which may deviate from the normal, standard cover letter you tend to see for law and accountancy roles, for example. Your cover letter needs to be original and show you have imagination, but understand what the job entails. Balance is essential: don't be too crazy, or it will turn off your future employer.
For more in-depth information about cover letter structure, read up on it here.
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4 tips for a great cover letter
Avoid generic cover letters
Generic cover letters are easy to spot and are a good way to put people off – companies want to see that you’re interested in working for them specifically so the extra effort is well worthwhile. Research the company in question and demonstrate in your letter what you know about them and their clients – perhaps you could comment on one of their recent marketing campaigns. Or maybe the company you’re applying to provides a product which you regularly use.
Check the company’s social media profiles as they may have released some news or commented on a recent trend – if relevant, you could allude to this in your cover letter as it shows commitment and interest. Add some personality to your letter but make sure it always relates back to the company and product in question.
Good cover letters tell a story
To create a successful product or brand, you need to tell a story and create a lifestyle that entices the consumer. Treat your cover letter the same – you’re the product and you need to sell yourself. Open with a strap-line that grabs the reader’s attention. Think about what you bring to this company. How can you help the company achieve its goals? Perhaps you’re exactly the demographic the company’s product or service targets? Or do you sometimes daydream about what it would feel like to work there? Tell your story. Just make sure your story is relevant so that it flows and connects with the role being advertised. Random musings will just look odd. Be careful not to oversell but make sure you get your point across.
Match their tone
Companies will be looking for employees who look and sound like them. A really formal, corporate letter isn’t always the best way to stand out, particularly for more creative roles. A more informal, chattier approach can be more effective – look at the language used in the job advert, the copy used on the company’s website etc. to get a better measure of this and look to complement it.
Employers need to find out not only that you have the right skill set but that you have the right sort of personality to fit into their environment. It's also important to tailor your cover letter to every application you submit - a hiring manager will know if you've recycled a cover letter you've used for another application!
Be accurate and be yourself
Always check for errors. Run a spelling and grammar check and read your letter out loud to family and friends. Do they feel it’s ‘you’ and is it interesting? The employer isn't going to believe you're an effective and creative communicator if your letter is bland and full of mistakes.
Honest, genuine writing always goes much, much further than sticking to an outdated careers textbook!
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