How to Write a Cover Letter that Stands Out in Job Applications

Now you have nailed your resume, how do you begin to write a winning cover letter? Let us help you with our tips on writing cover letters for jobs, internships, and more.
Man with black shirt getting interviewed by recruiter

A resume can only do so much. If you want to land your dream job, you should do everything in your power to make your application stand out. One of the most effective ways to do that is by sending an application letter. So, how to write a cover letter should be a top priority for job hunters irrespective of their industry or category.

Before we get to how to write an application letter, let’s understand the document. A cover letter is a value-addition to your resume. It’s a single-page document that describes your educational background, skillsets and work experience. But most importantly, it covers why you’re the right person for the job.

But why should anyone be interested in how to write a cover letter if you’re already sending the resume? Doesn’t the resume have everything that a prospective recruiter might need?

The cover letter puts your candidature in context. It elaborates the relevant academic and professional qualifications from your resume and reveals your personality traits. The cover letter makes the case for your candidature. You need it because you won’t be in the room when the recruiter reads your resume.

Job search has dramatically changed over the years. For most candidates, the process can seem impersonal and distant now. You are just filling a form online and uploading some documents. In such a context, do companies still prefer it and expect their applicants to know how to write a cover letter? Has the cover letter stood the test of time?

The answer is yes. According to a survey of mostly tech companies, 56% of recruiters want applicants to send a cover letter. Another survey found out that 83% of companies want your application to have a cover letter. And a recent cover letter statistics study discovered that 72% of hiring managers still expect applicants to submit a cover letter, even if the job posting says doing so is “optional. So, if you’re hoping to land a job at a big company in Singapore, you need to know how to write a good cover letter.

How to write a good cover letter for job applications

Technology has made it easy for candidates to find the right format for a good cover letter. All you’ve got to do is head to a site like Canva and use one of their templates. But you can also do it without any external help, as long as you keep it informative, engaging, and persuasive.

A good cover letter makes a compelling case for your application. It summarises for the recruiter what they need to know about your expertise, experience, achievements, your soft skills, and how well you’ll fit into your new role. An effective cover letter will divide these into easily understandable sections.

Whether you’re interested in how to write a cover letter for an internship or how to write a cover letter with no experience, the ingredients of a good cover letter are the same. So, anyone learning how to write a cover letter for a job application should be mindful of the following six sections that the letter should have.

Must-have contents of a good cover letter

  1. Header with contact information
  2. Recruiter’s information
  3. Customised introduction
  4. Main section
  5. Conclusion
  6. Salutation

1. Header with contact information

You should always start your cover letter with your contact information. This is how they’ll know who it’s from. The header should have the following details:

  • Full name
  • Phone number
  • Email add
  • Recruiter’s/hiring manager’s name with the title
  • Name of the organisation you’re writing to
  • Date

Do’s

  • Make sure that the information is legible and comfortably spaced for quick comprehension
  • It should be aligned to the right, left, or centre
  • You may mention your social media handles if they have your work
  • Include your website or blog if they’re relevant

Don’ts

  • Don’t include your address as that should be in your resume
  • Do not give an email id if it sounds unprofessional
  • Avoid unnecessary graphics or loud fonts
  • No garish colour schemes

2. Recruiter's information

To the greatest extent possible, your cover letter should be addressed to an individual and not the company. All you’ve got to do is go to LinkedIn or the company website and find out who the hiring manager is and then address them directly. So, instead of “Dear Sir or Madam,” it should be “Dear Ms. Bowden.”

In case you can’t find who the hiring manager or HR head is – this could happen in the case of small organisations or startups – address them by the title. “Dear HR Manager” or “Dear Hiring Team” is advisable if it’s the last resort.

Do’s

  • Spell their name correctly
  • Get their designation right
  • Include their company address

Don’ts

  • Don’t include their phone number even if you have it

3. Customised introduction

If you’re looking out for opportunities and want to know how to write a cover letter, here’s rule number one: The first paragraph of your cover letter can make or break your case. If it sounds generic, uninspiring, and boring, you’ve made sure that the recruiter loses interest in your letter and your resume.

Among the many tactics on how to make a cover letter that gets the recruiter interested, here’s the most important one: Before you start writing the letter, read the notification for the job application. What’s the company looking for? What are the key skillsets they’re focused on? What are the additional achievements they’re interested in? 

Are they looking for a copywriter with SaaS experience or are they looking for a content writer with SaaS experience, particularly, in the financial sector? While scanning the job posting, you may miss those nuances that will prove crucial in your introduction.

The first paragraph should briefly introduce yourself, mention your most significant achievements, and then say how you can make a difference to the job position you’re applying for. And it should do all that in around 60 to 70 words.

What you don’t want is a bland and weak introduction like this:

Hi Wen, I am Parker and I’d like to apply for the position of content writer with AKW Media. I’ve been working as a junior copywriter with TYU Associates for three years and believe that I’m the right candidate for your company.”

Instead, you should try something like this:

“Dear Mr. Chou, I am Parker and I’d like to help improve the page ranking and SEO optimisation of AKW Media’s clients. As a junior copywriter with TYU Associates for three years, I helped improve the ranking of 14 brands with an average increase of 340% in page visits. I believe my experience across financial, and technological sectors makes me the right candidate for the job of content writer with your firm.”

4. Main section

The right question shouldn’t be how to write a cover letter or how to write an application letter. It should be how to brand yourself as the right candidate for the job. Because your cover letter is ultimately an exercise in branding and the main section is where you should convince the reader to choose you over others. 

For you to effectively sell yourself to the company – and that’s exactly what this “About Me” section is all about – you should know what the buyer is looking for. So, before you begin writing this section, it pays to have another look at the job posting.

Are they looking for a B2B lead generation specialist or someone who knows how to generate B2B leads of a certain quality? Do they need someone who’s good at managing teams or specifically someone with cross-domain experience? Look for anything that you can easily link to your professional experience.

The next step is to be both specific and factual. Your expertise and performance should be quantifiable. Remember this: It’s better to quote the numbers of a smaller result than to be vague about a bigger achievement. 

So, avoid stating something like this:

“I’ve adequate experience in generating B2B leads and have been among the top performers in the region for two years. I’ve also been leading teams for client acquisition across different verticals.”

What you need is something like this:

“As Associate VP, Sales, I’ve increased our B2B lead generation by 30% every quarter. 70% of those leads were in the top ten percentile in terms of average revenue per client. I’ve also simplified our sales funnel by getting the IT, sales, and client management teams to work as a single unit with monthly deliverables. This has decreased the average client onboarding time by 40%.”

What's the point we're trying to make?

Well, the first example is vague and flowery. The second is factual. Those are the kind of specifics that will interest someone to have a conversation with you. They’d like to know how you did it. Your application is suddenly compelling to them.

But stating why you’re good at your current job and ready to take on new responsibilities doesn’t answer their question. Why should this particular company be interested in you? For that, you should show that you value what they do, and have thought about the difference you can make. For that you need to do the following:

  • Find out everything about what the company does
  • Try out their product or service
  • Compliment them while being specific
  • Talk about their company culture and how you’d be a natural fit

Remember that while the earlier parts are about you, this is about the company. The key here is to be specific and trustworthy. They need to know that you’re capable, well-informed, and excited to join them.

5. Conclusion

This is where you thank them and mention something you couldn’t include in the earlier paragraphs. But you don’t want to take up too much space here. The hiring manager is in a hurry and you don’t want to take up any more of their time.

Importantly, end with a call to action. Tell them that you’d love to discuss your application with them or would be happy to answer any queries they might have.

6. Salutation

Make sure that you end the cover letter on a formal note. Even if you’ve had a chance to talk to the hiring manager, don’t end it with a casual greeting, like “See you soon.” Go with any of the following.

  • Thank you,
  • Best Regards,
  • Sincerely,
  • Kind Regards,

But before you mail it, proofread and run a thorough grammar check using software like Grammarly.

Tips on how to write a cover letter for fresh graduates

For fresh graduates, the question is how to write a cover letter with little or no experience. As a recent graduate, whether you’re looking for a job in the government or private sector in Singapore, a cover letter can make all the difference. To help you out, here are a few tips:

Focus on academic achievements

Talk about your academic qualifications and achievements. Mention your GPA, the topic of your thesis, whether you got a scholarship, etc. Pro tip: If you struggled in any subject and eventually managed to score well in it, talk about it.

Add your extracurricular activities

Been part of a debating forum, volunteer group, or any club? Talk about it in your cover letter. If your activities have taken you outside your campus and into the community, mention that. Have a blog or a website? Include that.

Mention personal goals and values

Briefly write about your medium and long-term goals. Talk about the values that matter to you and see if you can align them with the company’s values.

Tips on how to write a cover letter for an internship

How to write a cover letter for a job application is different from writing one for an internship. Even if you know how to write the perfect CV, you can strengthen your application with a well-written cover letter.

As a student applying for an internship, your cover letter doesn’t have much area to cover. But that doesn’t mean it has to be uninspiring or bland. With the following tips, your cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd.

Show your interest

How to write a cover letter for an internship that interests the hiring manager? Show your passion for the job. Convey that this is an opportunity tailor-made for you as you’ve always been interested in the field and have been following the company.

Be specific

If you’ve done any project, thesis, or even blog entries on the sector, mention those. It doesn’t have to be directly aligned with the company but what matters is that you took initiative on a topic that interested you.

Think long-term

Explain what you hope to achieve in the industry in a decade or so. Make it sound like your vision statement. This is where the recruiter should see your ambition and loyalty to the sector and the company.

Tips on how to write a cover letter with no experience

When you’re applying as a fresh graduate or to a new field, the first step is to find out about jobs that require no experience. As you’re starting a career with no work experience in the field, your cover letter is as important as your resume. Here are a few proven tips to make it easy for your application to stand out.

Harp on achievements

You need to talk about your academic or professional achievements even if it’s from a different field. These should reflect your dedication and work ethic.

Show your interest

When you talk about your passion for the field, it’s important to think beyond the company. Show how you always were interested in the sector. Then talk about the specific products or services of the company and how you believe they could make a difference.

Mention personality traits

This is where you show your ability to learn fast and adapt. Briefly include examples from your life, education, or professional life to illustrate how you can quickly rise to a challenge, especially if it’s a new one. Also, talk about your communication and collaboration skills and how much you look forward to learning from and working with others.

To Sum Up...

A cover letter is what will open the doors for you and make people interested in your application. Your academic qualifications, professional achievements, and personal skills will be irrelevant if your cover letter doesn’t persuade the recruiter. This is your chance to sell the brand called you. That’s why everyone from freshers to middle-level executives should know how to write a cover letter.

If your cover letter does its job, you’ll be through to the next stage. Once you get to the interview, you can think about the questions that you should ask the hiring manager. That’s also when you will have to know more about the best ways to negotiate your salary, especially if you’re a woman.

But for all that to happen, your cover letter needs to convince the hiring manager that it would be their loss not to hire you.

Valentin Berard

COO at GrabJobs. Valentin leads strategic and operational activities regionally. Background in Business Development and Recruitment. Passionate about social innovation, he constantly strives to find solutions to real-world problems through harnessing smart technology. Read more: https://www.linkedin.com/in/valeberard/