In this article, we’re going to walk you through a step-by-step process of building a great cover letter. This includes how to get the attention of decision-makers and tell them how your work experience, personality, and passion all line up directly with what that organisation's seeking.
We'll also share some tips on making sure this masterpiece gets into the right hands and is read by the right people.
Your cover letter is one of your earliest opportunities to grab the attention of an employer. Do you want to know who gets offered the job in any given competition? It's the person who can hint very strongly, right out of the gate, that they are a yes to the three main things that they're looking for in the person they'll ultimately employ:
If you can explain right from that cover letter that you're a yes, a yes and a yes to all three questions, you're going to a great start. You can adjust the tone to the company’s personality, and you can share stories that convey your interest and fit.
The content of a cover letter is critical. And your most important step is to grab their attention at ‘hello’. If you bore them in that first sentence and there's a reasonable chance they will lose interest. Captivate them and, at the same time, stay on point for that job that you're applying for. It's your immediate opportunity to give a positive emotional response and begin positioning yourself as both a skills fit and a cultural match for that job and organisation.
This is where you say, here's who I am, and why I want to work for you and you're not just out there making lots of applications. You’re approaching this organisation very thoughtfully, and you believe that you have something of value that can add to their organisation.
Next, you need to provide direct evidence that you've got the specific skills the organisation is looking for. It's your opportunity to help the reader quickly connect the dots between what they need and how you can add value. This will likely be the longest section of your cover letter. It will show that you not only have a good idea of what they need, but you've also got the skills and experience.
A while back, we worked with someone applying to be a smoking cessation manager at a local authority. They wanted the employer to know right away that they were applying for this job not only because they had the skills but because they couldn't imagine a better place to work.
So the start went something like this: “I have a personal interest in smoking cessation that dates back many years. As a daughter of a nurse, I heard many stories of people who were unable to give up smoking, even though they knew it would change their life. As an experienced manager with a lifelong passion for helping people. I'd be proud to be your next smoking cessation manager and support the people of London take control of their health”.
As you can see, this person grabbed their attention. It provides a clear and engaging explanation about why they are so passionate.
After your lead, you need to transition into the main content section of your cover letter. Study your notes on the organisation or the job description, and then spell it out in a very obvious way. This will likely be the longest section of your cover letter.
A suggestion is to head into this section with this exact line. What precisely would I bring to XYZ organisation in this role? And then develop a few quick bullet points or preferred qualifications. For instance, if you're great at being a leader and they're looking for someone who can oversee a team, spell that outright in this section. Also, emphasise these core points in bold so that the employer’s eyes go right to it. And then, right after that point, you could highlight your strong problem-solving skills.
Two of your bullet points might read like this.
Again, you want to spell out quickly and directly what makes you an excellent fit for the job and then share supporting evidence to back up your claim. Include about four of these statements, depending on how long each one is. Don't feel like you have to list out every requirement. Make it easy for them to see you as a strong fit, so they feel compelled to invite you in for an interview.
Now wrap up the cover letter with a strong close. The key with your close is to create something that ties everything together without being pushy or cliché. Interestingly, this seems to be the most challenging part for a lot of people. Many cover letters start on the right track, but the author fizzles out at the end.
The other end of the spectrum is that people push hard sell. But please don’t do that. Being too aggressive could ruin your shot at landing an interview and spoil an otherwise excellent cover letter. So, number one is to show confidence and enthusiasm. Two, briefly sum up why you think you're a great fit. Three, express thanks for their time and consideration. And four, ask for the interview. Here’s an example:
“I would love an opportunity to learn more about your specific goals and needs and share what I could offer. May we meet in the coming days to discuss the role? I appreciate your consideration.”
It's friendly, it's on point, and it ties the whole cover letter up nicely. Also note, it's free of clichés. You have one chance to get this right, so give it your best shot.
Your cover letter will be the most impactful if you can get it right into the hands of a decision-maker. Of course, most public health-related organisations require that you submit your application through their online portal. It's the way that they track and manage candidates. But there's nothing that says that you can't be proactive and work out who is heading up the organisation and make a speculative application.
LinkedIn is the perfect resource to help you do this. Instead, do whatever you can and see if you can find a direct email address. So how do you do this? Take this information and head to the company website or LinkedIn. You can probably figure out a decision-maker’s email address immediately; try Googling their name plus the company name plus the word ‘contact’ or ‘email’. Once you find that contact, you now have an actual person to address your cover letter, which is so much better than starting it with ‘Dear Whom It May Concern’. Otherwise, try this simple tactic. Call their office and ask the receptionist/assistant if they can verify the email address.
Most people decide which emails they're going to open based on who they're from and how the subject line reads. This employer isn't going to recognise your name, so the subject line needs to clinch it for you. If you don't have any internal connections, try something like “Experienced Smoking Cessation Manager with a passion for helping people take control of their health”.
Or if you happen to have an in with someone at that organisation and permission to name-drop, mentioned their name in the subject line—this way, the recipient sees right away that you've got ties to that company. Once you’ve done this, make the cover letter the body of the email and attach your CV. They might respond and explain they don’t have any positions currently but will keep on details on file, or you might make such an impression on them they arrange a time to speak.
We hope that you have found this helpful. However, we understand you may be busy or need extra help. We recommend TopCV, which offer some great packages, which includes Cover Letter help alongside CV writing. You can take a look here.
Jyotsna Srinath, Public Health Analyst at Essex County Council, kindly answered some questions about her public health journey.
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