A winning cover letter kind of looks like this.
“Nobody reads a cover letter — it’s so 1995!”
Is it true that nobody reads cover letters? False. But most recruiters skip the bad ones and only read the good ones.
But one thing is true. Today, a good cover letter is not a full-page letter. Instead, the usual content of a cover letter is now pushed into the online forms, or into the email that you send to submit your application.
So, what is a cover letter? In essence, it’s a short text answering two questions
It’s a great, easy opportunity to increase your chance of being hired. A good cover letter achieves these 4 things:
Here’s a good cover letter text, and a bad one. We start with the bad one. Read it and ask yourself why it’s so ineffective.
To whom it may concern, I hereby submit my application. I am an excellent Java programmer who is highly diligent, ready to start working. For more details see my resume. I am looking forward to hearing from you. Kind regards, [CANDIDATE FIRST NAME]
Why is it bad? The salutation is generic. The email does not say what position the application is for. The text is formulaic (“I hereby submit”). It’s too direct (“I am excellent”). It’s also too sloppy to end with your first name only at first contact. To be on the safe side in slightly more formal Germany, switch to first names only once your correspondent has switched.
Let’s take a look at a good example. This is actually a winning cover letter email that an Imagine Fellow has sent to a company. He scored an interview.
Dear recruiting team at [Company name], dear Mr./Ms. [real name of HR manager and/or CTO] I hope this finds you well. I hereby apply for the position of “FULL-STACK DEVELOPER (JAVA/REACT)” at [Company name]. I am a full stack developer with [x] years of full time work experience. I mainly work in Java with the spring framework as well as REACT. I also have some applied UX experience mainly from developing android apps and supporting front end teams. I now seek a new challenge being closely embedded in an agile product development team like yours, working on exciting novel B2C applications like the ones [COMPANY] is building. I am looking forward to hearing from you. Kind regards, [FULL NAME]
Why is it good? This cover letter corrects all mistakes of the bad one. In addition, it is well structured.
PRO TIP 1: It’s a good idea to visit an HR manager’s LinkedIn page to get a better feel for the person behind the name. But, importantly, do not mass-connect with HR managers on LinkedIn. These people are professionals and know their peers. Nothing says “I don’t care about you and your company” as clearly as you being connected with half of their peers.
PRO TIP 2: Use this good example as a basis to craft your own cover letter texts/emails. Do not use it as a template though. The entire idea of a good cover letter is that it’s not generic but specific to the job you are applying for!
PRO TIP 3: You can write cover letter emails in a semi-standardized manner, carefully adjusting parts of your text to each company while keeping the overall structure in place. This saves you time and headaches. But, importantly, always customize, never fully standardize. Recruiters can easily tell.
PRO TIP 4: Keep it simple, short, and sweet. Do not write texts longer than 230 words. If it’s too long nobody will read it.
That’s it. We hope you enjoyed the read. Now it’s time for action. As always, we are rooting for you. Keep us posted.
— Your friends at Imagine