4 mins read

Stand Out with Stellar Cover Letters

What is A Cover Letter?

First things first, let’s straighten something out: a cover letter is not a rejigged version of your resume. In fact, if you’re doing things right, there shouldn’t be much crossover between the two at all!

Think of your cover letter as a short personal essay on why you’re the perfect candidate for the job. 

Do I Really Need to Include a Cover Letter?

In recent years, the importance of cover letters has been causing some pretty major contention. Some argue that hiring managers get enough information from your resume and LinkedIn alone, while others believe that it’s integral for a successful job search. Here at Explore Careers, we side with the latter. 

A cover letter is still incredibly valuable in a variety of ways; it allows you to let your personality shine through, communicate your enthusiasm for the job and demonstrate your effort and commitment to your application. Moreover, cover letters are much more personalised than your resume, so you can tell your potential employer why you’re perfect for their business, specifically. 

What’s more, Forbes states that only 47% of people use a cover letter, so set yourself apart from almost half of the other applicants! Imagine if the hiring process was down to two people with similar job applications, but only one had a cover letter; more often than not, the one who put in extra effort is the one who’ll walk away employed!

Still can’t be bothered putting pen to paper? Maybe these stats from Resume Genius’ 2023 survey will change your mind:

  • 94% of hiring managers think cover letters are influential when deciding who to interview. 
  • 45% of hiring managers read your cover letter before your resume.
  • 49% of hiring managers say a strong letter can convince them to interview an otherwise weak applicant.
  • 6% of hiring managers believe a cover letter is unimportant when deciding whether to invite an applicant to interview. 

Female student typing cover letter on laptop

The Basics

When you’re just starting out in the cover letter game, there are a few must-know elements for a stellar job application. To make things a little easier and to kickstart your job search, we’ve listed them below (you can thank us later). 

1. Format

I know, we probably sound like your English teacher harping on about structure and formatting, but it actually is really important, and you’ll want to get it right. 

Start with an introduction that includes a little bit about you, what you’re applying for and why you’re applying. Next, fill your body paragraph(s) with relevant achievements, facts, and other tidbits that recommend you for the position. Finally, conclude with your future plans and a thank you. Once you’ve nailed the format, it’s really not as hard as it sounds!

2. Professional Tone

Trust us, the hiring manager doesn’t want to read any slang or abbreviations when they’re scanning your cover letter. To keep it professional, opt for a formal and respectful tone. 

This extends to the email address you’re using to send out your applications, too. Your handle should just be your name, not a meme or funny joke. If you have a profile picture attached to your email, make sure this is professional too. While these might seem like small details, they may just cost you a job if you slip up in front of the wrong hiring manager. 

3. Customise 

The trick to customising your cover letters is to maintain the illusion that you’re only sending out one job application, so you really have to make it count. This means doing in-depth company research, presenting your experiences in a way that aligns with the role’s requirements and, in short, putting in some serious effort. 

You may have heard the saying that “looking for a job is a full-time job,” and sometimes, it feels a lot like the truth. However, it’ll all be worth it in the end when you land the dream job. 

4. Use Specific Examples

When you’re talking about how incredible you are in certain areas, use concrete examples to show you mean business. Whether they come in the form of stats or work-related anecdotes, they provide proof to the company that you’re as good as you say you are. 

If you don’t have any experience under your belt, that’s okay too! Try talking about your extracurricular experience and the steps you’re taking for your future. 

5. Proofread

This tip is short and sweet; make sure your cover letter has correct grammar and spelling. It shows hiring managers that you pay attention to the details and presents a great first impression. 

What Not to Include

Before we go too crazy with our cover letter execution, it’s important to note a couple of elements that might not go down so well (or that are just altogether unnecessary). These are the bits you might want to leave out:

  • Photos
  • Your Date of Birth
  • Your Address
  • Salary Expectations
  • Reiteration of Resume Information

Cover Letter Templates: Yay or Nay?

While a tonne of websites argue that cover letter templates are fine, they often do so to sell their downloadable templates. Don’t fall for it; personalised and genuine cover letters are leagues better anyway!

The issue with templates is that you can usually tell that they’re templates. Even the best ones are still too broad to adequately convey why you’re perfect for the role. Their kind of ‘professional writing’ feels incredibly robotic, and in the age of artificial intelligence, it might suggest that your cover letter was written by Chat GPT. Trust us, it’s not a good look. 

However, cover letter templates can be useful in an inspirational sense. For those of you who are feeling super stuck on what to write (and trust us, we’ve all been there,) a template can be a great way to get those creative cogs turning. 

Go Forth and Write!

With these professional writing tips added to your toolbelt, you’re ready to enter the world of cover letters. Just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you’ll become. So, if your first attempt isn’t quite how you want it, don’t give up. We’re sure you’ll end up with a winning template in no time!

Ready to put your newfound cover letter writing skills to good use? Discover who your future employer could be, or browse student job opportunities open now!


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