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4 Simple Steps to a Winning Cover Letter


A man handing in his job application material to an employer while smiling

“Look! The job ad isn’t asking for a cover letter – I don’t need to write one, right?”

Wrong! Just because the job ad didn’t specifically ask for a cover letter, doesn’t mean you should skip it. Unless the job ad specifically says, “Do not write a cover letter”, I highly recommend you putting in the time and effort into writing one.


Not sure how to start? You’ve come to the right place! At TWC Career Canvas, our goal is to be your one-stop shop for clear and concise employment advice. Keep reading this blog to nail your next job application and boost your chances of landing an interview!



What is a Cover Letter?


A cover letter is sent to employers as part of your job application. It should be no longer than 1-page in length and demonstrate why you are an excellent candidate to fill the position.


The two worst case scenarios that may happen from writing your cover letter are:

  1. It’s skipped over completely and goes unread – wasting time.

  2. It is read by the hiring manager, but is poorly written – hurting your interview chances.


Worried that those two scenarios might be happening to you right now? No need to panic! This blog post is here to help you avoid those pitfalls and make sure you’re fully ready to write a winning cover letter.



Why Write a Cover Letter?


Cover letters serve to supplement your resume. A resume is very ridged, telling the facts – “I worked at company, at              time, performing             tasks”.


Comparatively, cover letters tell the full story. You can clearly explain why you want the job and how your background and skills make you the perfect fit for the company and role you’re applying for.


A well-written cover letter will help hiring managers spend more time looking at your resume. 6-7 seconds is the average time a hiring manager looks at a resume for, but if you’ve first caught their attention in your cover letter, they’re likely to look at your resume more closely.


For example, you’re applying for an Operations Manager role and your cover letter mentions some of your experience. The hiring manager approaching your resume may say to themselves “I seen in James’ cover letter he worked as a Operations Manager before, I wonder how big his team was and how long he managed it for?” – specifically looking for those relevant details on your resume.



How to Write an Effective Cover Letter


A young professional women writing notes in her notebook.

Every cover letter should have four distinct elements. By asking yourself the right questions – each of these sections practically write themselves, you’re just knitting the answers together for smooth-reading result.



1. About the Job


This is the opening paragraph of your cover letter. In this section you’re being specific about why you’re writing, what you’re applying for, and why you are a fit for the position.


As you’re prepping this section, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the name of the position I'm applying for?

  • What makes me interested in this position?

  • Why do I think I fit this role?


Don’t overthink it. Maybe you're trained for this job, maybe you’re truly passionate about the work, maybe you have relevant transferrable skills you want to apply, it could be any number of things.


Example:


This letter is written in application for your Administrative Assistant Position (Competition# ABC123) as seen on Indeed. Having graduated from NSCC’s Business Administration program in 2021, gaining over 2 years of professional Admin experience post-graduation, I’m very interested in continuing my career as part of the AdminPro team.


Highlighted in blue above, you’ll see that, the above questions were addressed – What am I applying for, why am I interested and why I am a fit for the role.



2. About the Company


In this section, ask yourself:

  • What is it that you know about the company that makes you want to join their team?

  • Why is that meaningful to me?


So many people use empty flattery in their cover letters. Baseless jargon that is copied and pasted from application to application; is such a fantastic company and I can’t wait to work for you!” That kind of statement does nothing to truly make a connection to the employer. The challenge in writing this section is finding something legitimate.


Take a few minutes and think, explore the company mission statement, values, recent press, etc. See what positives you find. Maybe it's the work they do, management style, values, community. This section can be key to showing you're serious about working for that company and not just regurgitating job ad skills.


Depending on where you apply, this may take some thinking, as there are almost certainly companies you feel no connection to, while others you’ve been dreaming about. The most important item to keep in mind is that in addition to showing you've done some research is demonstrating legitimate reasons why you want to join them.


Example:


AdminPro has been a fixture in the community for decades. I cannot recall a year going by where “AdminPro” hasn’t sponsored or donated to numerous community causes and events. As I was completing my education and networking with professionals in the Business Administration field, every single AdminPro employee I talked to spoke very highly of your company culture. As someone who reflects those same values of giving back to the local community and teamwork, AdminPro is where I could see myself working for a very long time.


Highlighted in blue above, I identified what I know about the company that connected with me and briefly explained why it made me want to work for them.


A picture of a laptop, a notebook, pen, phone, and a glass of water on a table.

3. About You


This section has you listing two or three (NOT A DOZEN!) of your most relevant skills for the position, explaining how you've used them in the past and how you intend to use them to improve the company through the position.


Here is how to create this section:

  • Study the job ad and take special note of what things they are mentioning first and/or most often.

  • Then with those things in mind, ask yourself, what core skills you have that can meet those needs. Jot those down.

  • Looking at those notes, create your paragraphs with the following: How have you used those skills in the past? How do you see yourself using them for the company?


Example:

As your Administrative Assistant I would heavily lean on my organization and communication skills. Staying on top of the latest company information and relaying it effectively to the correct people is absolutely pivotal for any successful Administrative Assistant.


During my time at NSCC and ABC Company, I routinely organized competing priorities and ensured information was presented in a clear and timely fashion. I also helped support a staff team of 18 people, the collective staff efforts seen the ABC Company achieve 110% of their revenue targets.


Admin software and AI are both evolving quickly and as your Administrative Assistant I would continue to remain informed regarding the latest developments in those fields. MS Office, Slack, Zoom and GPT-4 are tools I use daily, and I feel very comfortable learning new software. 


Highlighted above, I introduced some hypothetical skills pulled from the job ad and provided brief examples of where I used the skills in the past and provided what details I could. For example, specifying a staff size of 18, the company success of 110% revenue targets, and daily use of relevant software.



4. Conclusion


In this final section, you are simply ending confidently, requesting an interview and are reiterating your contact info. If reiterating your contact info seems too repetitive for you, you can skip that part, as ending in confidence is most important.


Key things to remember about the conclusion section:

  • The more confident you are in yourself, the easier it is for the employer to trust us with the position.

  • Be careful to avoid things like: "I think I would be a good candidate". You don't think you would be, you know you would be.


Personally, I like the line, "I am very confident that I will both meet and exceed your expectations for this position"


Example:


To conclude, I am very confident that as your , I would both meet and exceed your expectations for the position. I am requesting an interview with you at your convenience to discuss how I would be an asset to              . I am best reached at               or              , please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.


A picture of young professional women shaking hands with another person.

Need More Help with Cover Letters?


If you have any additional questions or still believe you require more support even after reading this blog, register to attend our FREE Cover Letter Writing Workshop, where you will discover even more tips and advice that will help you land more job interviews than ever before!


To register for any of TEAM Work Cooperative workshops, please click here.


 

A picture of Alex Hill, the author of this blog article.

About James Smith

 

Born in Halifax and raised in the small town of Middle Musquodoboit, James learned that neighbours are important and should stick together, and thus he decided he wanted to help people for a living. Whether critiquing a resume or helping a friend move, James is always game and always smiling.


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