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How to Write a Proper Cover Letter

A cover letter is an attachment to a job application that, when required, provokes a general reaction of severe annoyance (who doesn't love LinkedIn's "Easy apply" option?). Many of us would probably put the application on hold, if not give up on it altogether, just because writing a cover letter feels like an enormous waste of our time.

Making the cover letter a mandatory attachment may actually be one way for hiring companies to weed out the lazy and the indifferent: someone who isn't truly motivated or interested in the job simply won't bother writing one. The first thing to do, therefore, is decide whether an opportunity is important enough for you to spend 15 minutes of your free time on it. If it is, make your peace with it and get it done. How many times during your work day do you force yourself in doing things that you don't want to, anyway?

Here are our tips for writing an effective and interesting cover letter. Just know one thing: you may write the best letter ever, but if your CV isn't ATS-optimized, all your efforts will go to waste. Maximize your chances of being selected for a first interview by reading our article on how to write a great CV.


The Ten Commandments

When drafting your cover letter, swear by the following golden rules:

  1. A cover letter is not an autobiography: stick to the 1-page limit.

  2. A cover letter must be error-free: spelling and grammar mistakes are inexcusable.

  3. Do not abuse of the pronoun 'I'.

  4. A cover letter must be consistent in formatting, spacing, and alignment, also with your CV.

  5. A cover letter should be addressed to a specific team (e.g. recruitment team) or reference person.

  6. A cover letter should be tailored to the position and company you are applying to, by matching the skills and expertise listed in the job description with your current and past work and academic experience.

  7. A cover letter should include action verbs, like your CV.

  8. A cover letter must complement the information included in your CV, not repeat it.

  9. A cover letter should be personal: let the interviewer get a glimpse of your personality (but tone down the crazy!).

  10. A cover letter should be sent in the pdf format.


Standard Structure

A standard cover letter is made up of 3 paragraphs:

Paragraph I. Position & Motivation

In this section, you must aim to answer the following questions:

  • Which position are you applying to? Clearly state the position and team you wish to apply to, including the source and reference number (if available).

  • Why are you applying to this position? What are you looking to achieve? Explain why this opportunity is important to you, referring to specific career goals (maybe even personal ones).

Paragraph II. Employer & Skills

In this section, you must aim to answer the following questions:

  • Why would you like to work for the hiring company? Do your research and be specific. For example, cite recent initiatives undertaken by the company that struck you as significant, and that you would like to be a part of.

  • What can you bring to the table? Include relevant skills, and previous professional and academic experience that support your application.

Paragraph III. Hopes & Thanks

This closing section is dedicated to asking for the opportunity to further discuss the position, and thanking the reader for taking the time to consider your application.


Useful Terms

Here are some popular terms you can use when writing up your cover letter:

  • To describe yourself: ambitious | credible | dependable | driven | eager | enthusiastic | experienced | impressed | passionate | performance-driven | reliable | results-oriented | team player

  • To describe your experience: deep | extensive | proven | solid | strong | valuable

  • To describe the hiring company: agile | impressive | innovative | leading | outstanding | renowned

  • To describe the opportunity: challenging | demanding | important | impressive | meaningful | rewarding | significant

  • Useful verbs: appreciate | bring | consider | contribute | draw upon | enable | express | facilitate | thrive

  • Useful nouns: aptitude | awareness | background | credentials | credibility | dependability | effort | environment | expertise | focus | goal | insights | interest | knowledge | reliability | reputation | skills | strengths | teamwork | understanding | values


We hope you found this article useful. For questions or clarifications, feel free to reach out. Thanks for reading, and good luck!

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