A deeper dive into the art of cover letters that get results.
If you’re new to cover letter writing, it might seem intimidating at first. A blank page awaiting descriptions of your work history and skills. But with a bit of guidance this can be a fairly painless exercise - and one that might even help you learn a bit about yourself.
As I mentioned in the Tips & Tricks article, you’ll want your cover letter to be formal - in most cases, a block format style cover letter is expected. This means that all text will be left-justified and you’ll include a header with contact information and the date, followed by a formal greeting. Check out templates here and here to get a sense of the format.
In your first paragraph your objective is to introduce yourself, tell the reader what specific job you’re applying for and why you’re excited about their company. If there is a degree or certification requirement in the job description, include your qualifications in this paragraph. Here you must demonstrate your interest in the specific company you're applying to. Research the company through their website, news articles - or word of mouth. Specify your interest: “I have watched XYZ company lead the field in carbon capture and was excited to see the recent announcement for a new facility. I would love to put my skills in equipment maintenance towards supporting carbon capture as a Millwright at XYZ company.” Always emphasize the value that you will bring to the company.
In the second paragraph, demonstrate your technical skills and experience that match those in the job description using tangible examples with measurable outcomes where possible. For instance, to describe worksite safety experience you might write, “As the team leader on the construction site for a new house, I ensured the team kept safety top of mind by using a safety check-list each morning before starting our work. I reduced workplace injury by 10% within a year.” This can be applied to any experiential requirement. Give specific, concrete examples that relate to the role you’re applying for.
In the third paragraph, describe the non-technical skills that you have that match the job description. Again, you’ll want to use tangible examples of these skills. For instance, if the company is looking for someone who is a good team player, you could describe your experience playing on a hockey team, or working on a team-based project. Describe the outcomes of that experience and any insight that you would bring to a similar environment. Perhaps as a part of the hockey team you noticed that senior players mentoring junior players improved performance and that is something that you would suggest to improve performance of any team.
Finish your letter with a paragraph reiterating your skills - do not introduce any new materials here, this should simply re-state the skills you have described already. Thank the reader for their time and request a further discussion of your qualifications in an interview. Be sure to keep your letter limited to a single page and finish with a formal signature at the end of your letter, such as “Sincerely” and your name.
Read through your letter to check for spelling, grammar and overall flow. A great time-saving tip is to create a principal cover letter, similar to the principal resume. Keep a bank of paragraphs describing some of your top skills and most impactful experiences, then pick and choose which paragraphs work best for a given job application. Note: you still need to make your cover letter specific to the company and role, even if you recycle some of the content; always read through to ensure good logic and flow. Aside from having an “in” at the company (we’ll talk about networking and referrals in a future post), a great cover letter is one of the best ways to stand out as an applicant.
Post by freelance writer Anna Kobb
This blog is funded in part by the Government of Canada's Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program.