A good cover letter

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There's no such thing as a perfect cover letter. You can never be completely certain of what the person who's going to read it wants. Sometimes, not even they know what they want. But if you find that you aren't being invited for interviews with the cover letters you're sending out, try something new.

We've collected 10 tips for what a great cover letter should include. To write a great cover letter, the most important thing is to align what you write with the position. Your employer should be able to clearly see who you are, what you're capable of, and how you can solve their specific problems.

1. Start with research

Before you can write a cover letter, you need to know what kind of business you're applying to and what kinds of assumptions they operate under. In other words, you want to show a potential employer that you have a fundamental understanding of the business. That way, you can tailor your cover letter to show the employer that you know what kind of workplace you're applying to. Use Google, the business's website, and LinkedIn profiles for your research.

Read more about what it means to understand a business and how to do it

2. Call and inquire about the position if you're uncertain

Job postings often name a variety of tasks and responsibilities without indicating which ones are most important. That's why it's a good idea to call and inquire about the position if you have any doubts. What will your main task be, and how will your employer evaluate your success in completing it?

3. This isn't about you and your career dreams

Your cover letter shouldn't be about all the great things a position will do for your career, or how it's something you've always dreamt of. Instead, show the business that you understand what they do and have thought about how you can solve their problems.

Download cover letter template (Word - in Danish)

4. Get into character

Use personal (but not private) language that shows who you are. Academic language full of kilometre-long sentences can get rather dry, and it doesn't say much about who you are as a person. Your cover letter and CV will give a potential employer their first impression of you, so be sure to arouse their curiosity.

5. Target your writing and show employers that you can solve their most important problems

Potential employers can easily tell if you've sent them a "mass-produced" CV. Make sure that the job description, your CV, and your cover letter are aligned, so it's clear that the CV and cover letter match the job description.

Use the job description as a starting point. What are the three most important problems you'll need to solve? In your CV and cover letter, make it clear that you can solve them.

Focus on the future in your cover letter. Think about how you can solve the employer's three most important challenges from their job posting in the first three months. By writing in the present or the future, with phrases like "I will be able to" or "I can contribute" instead of "I did", you can align your writing with the employer's problems, so they can easily see how you will solve them. On the other hand, your CV should focus on the past and your previous experiences. They serve as arguments that support your cover letter.

Get inspiration for how to spotlight your skills

6. End with your chin held high and some professional pride

You don't need to make a quiet exit, saying that you hope your application will be considered and you look forward to meeting in person. Of course you do.

7. Remember — one page only

A cover letter should be no longer than one page. If your cover letter comes out longer, cut back some. Choose the three most important things in the job posting that you want to base your writing around. "Kill your darlings", consider moving a description to your CV, and maybe have a friend go over your cover letter. Don't bother changing the margins or the font size; you'll only risk irritating a potential employer.

Also, take a look at Ballisager's recruitment analyses (in Danish). Each year, they ask employers about the things they want to see in cover letters and CVs.

2019 recruitment analysis (PDF)

8. Get the details right

Be sure to proofread your writing and avoid irritating a potential employer by sending in a cover letter that doesn't tell them what you have to offer. Include your contact information (name, email address, phone number) in your cover letter and CV. Last, but not least, always be sure to send your cover letter and CV as PDF files. If you sent them as Word files, you risk that your formatting won't be preserved, so your cover letter may look messy.

9. What about recommendations?

Recommendations are of limited value. They will only be read closely if they are particularly relevant. Consider asking if employers are interested in recommendations before including them. On LinkedIn, others can recommend you. Since most employers will check your LinkedIn, you can share recommendations with them there instead. In your CV, you can also write that references are available upon request. That also enables you to control which of your references are contacted and when.

10. Don't be afraid to try something new

If you find that you aren't being invited for interviews with the cover letters you're sending out, try something new. For example, you can try a new layout, rewrite your content in a different style, or highlight different things. Try calling places that haven't replied to you and ask why you weren't considered. Employers may be able to give you tips as to what you can do differently in the future.

Book a CV and cover letter review with DM

As a member of DM, you can get feedback on your cover letters, CVs, and LinkedIn profile when you're looking for a job. Book a CV and cover letter review online, and get 15 minutes of personalised feedback.

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