Cover Letters Dos and Don’ts
Cover letters are one of the most important parts of the application process, but many candidates write them as an afterthought, despite spending hours perfecting their CV. For marketing jobseekers, this is particularly ironic, as the cover letter is your chance to set out your shop window and market yourself.
Here are our Dos and Don’ts for writing marketing cover letters that will impress an employer and make you stand out from the crowd.
DON’T assume you don’t need a cover letter
Unless you’re applying through an agency or via a job board and it’s specifically stated you don’t need to write a cover letter, it’s always better to include one. A well-written letter adds context to your CV and makes your application more noticeable.
DON’T reuse your previous cover letter
It’s fine to start from a template or previous version, but an effective cover letter should be individually tailored for that role.
DO take time to research the company
This is an essential part of any job application process. Study the company’s history, products / services, culture and values. How can you relate to these?
DO think about keywords
Go through the job description or advertisement and highlight the keywords it uses, such as specific skills, experience or character traits. Make sure you include those keywords in your cover letter – it’s much more likely to be put forward, whether it’s being filtered by an ATS or a human being.
DO mirror the employer’s culture
Companies want to employ candidates who understand and relate to their core values. You should mirror their culture in the language you use, whether formal or informal, and use the same terminology they employ.
DO show enthusiasm and passion
Employers like candidates to be excited about working for their company. You can convey this by mentioning what you find particularly interesting about the company / role and how you hope to help them grow.
DON’T address the letter “To Whom It May Concern”
Make the effort to find out the name of the hiring manager and address your letter directly to them. If you can’t get a name, use a job title instead.
DO include reference details
Make sure you include the exact job title of the role you are applying for, any reference details quoted in the advertisement and where you saw the ad. You don’t want there to be any doubt about the which vacancy you are applying for.
DON’T just focus on you
A common mistake in cover letters is to talk exclusively about you and why you want the role. Concentrating on the employer and what you can offer them is much more effective.
DO check your letter carefully
Don’t just rely on the automatic spellcheck – it won’t pick up words that are correctly spelled but incorrect in context. Reading your letter out loud is the best way to sense-check and pick up any typos. If you can, get a friend to read through too and critique your letter.
DO include a hook
The first line of your cover letter should be your elevator pitch, sparking the interest of the employer. Think about your key assets and what makes you unique.
DON’T repeat what’s on your CV
Rather than listing your professional experience & key skills, like you do on your CV, you need to summarise it and explain why it is relevant to this role. Make sure you are matching your experience and skills to their needs. You could also include a bullet list of your key achievements, showing the employer what you could offer them.
DO include figures
Quantifiable figures always make your achievements stand out. Simply stating that you ran a campaign is much less impressive than being able to say that campaign resulted in a 20% uplift in sales and achieved an ROI of over £10K.
DO use business letter format
Unless your cover letter is a box on an application form, you should use the following format:
- Your contact details
- Current date
- Their contact details
- Letter body
- A closing statement, such as “Yours sincerely” or “Kind regards”
- Your signature
- Your full name
DON’T write multiple pages
A cover letter should always fit on to one side of A4. In most cases, 3-4 paragraphs will be enough to tell your story and any more will seem self-indulgent and risk losing the hirer’s interest.
DON’T try and be funny
If the employer has a laid-back, informal culture, it can be tempting to try and include a bit of humour in your cover letter. However, comedy is deeply subjective, and this can easily backfire and make you seem unprofessional.
Some free online tools and templates to help you write the perfect marketing cover letter:
The Guardian – Three excellent cover letter examples
MyPerfectCV – 30 of the UK’s Most Popular Cover Letter Templates
Resume Genius – Cover Letter Builder