How to Write A Cover Letter Step-By-Step

In keeping with our theme on how to write the perfect cover letter, many have asked if I would discuss a step-by-step strategy to get you started in your writing process.

So you have found the job of your dreams and you are all set to apply but there is one thing standing in your way – the cover letter. The cover letter can be one of the most crucial elements to your job application; it can be the story that seals the deal and gets you the interview just as much as it can land you a quick spot in the ‘no’ pile.

With your strategically branded resume, the job posting in hand and a few minutes spent reading over the company website before you start writing you will be on your way to having the perfect cover letter to complement your resume and get the interview!

To begin, read through the job posting and identify the key qualifications required for the position (i.e. 10 years of leadership experience, 3-5 years sales experience, post-secondary education, strong problem-solving abilities, etc…) and brainstorm about ways that your experience demonstrates these characteristics. You do not need to go into lengthy detail about every little aspect of your career history (your resume should do this!). For your cover letter, you want to simply highlight the biggest and strongest accomplishments in one page or less (usually two or three major accomplishments is enough). Think of it this way – your resume is a list of your career history and experience, the cover letter is your chance to tell YOUR story and explain why you are the perfect candidate over every other applicant. 

When you are thinking about your accomplishments, remember that numbers and quantifiable information goes a long way. If you are going to discuss how you have increased revenue for Company A, explain in percentages by exactly how much you have increased revenue for Company A. If you have specific sales targets to meet and you plan to discuss that you have consistently surpassed all targets, explain in detail how, for example, you have consistently achieved over 68% of your targets.

Now that you have brainstormed about your key accomplishments and what will make you stand out from the competition it is time to start writing the letter. When writing each paragraph, it is important to keep in mind that short and sweet is the best course of action. You simply want to gain interest and a desire in meeting you, not bore the reader with menial tasks and job duties.

The opening of your cover letter should be no longer than 3 sentences, and address the position title while briefly calling attention to the most important thing you want the hiring manager to know about you. For example: “My experience as an investment banker and assistant to the Vice President is, I believe, readily adaptable to your needs”.

Next, you need some body paragraphs that highlight why you are the best candidate. This is where your previous brainstorming will come in. You will choose the most important accomplishments that relate to the position and tell the story of how these accomplishments fit the position and the company needs. It is in these two or three short paragraphs that you will tell the hiring manager how you can help meet their needs. Additionally, this is also a great place to explain why you fit or share the same values, company brand or culture (this is where the earlier company website research comes in handy).

And finally, you need to close the letter with a call to action. Either request an interview or suggest that you will follow-up in a few days. Always remember to thank the hiring manager for taking the time to read your letter and accompanying resume and include a preferred method of contact.

Once you have written the letter, it is time to proof-read, proof-read, and proof-read some more.  After all this hard work, the last thing you want is a minor spelling or grammatical error to stand in your way of getting the call for an interview!

Congratulations! You have just written the perfect cover letter.  Pair this with your branded resume and you are sure to be getting a call.

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