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How to write a killer cover letter

Get that interview with this proven copywriting strategy 

You’ve got a great resumé – it looks sharp, it concisely sums up your educational background and it succinctly outlines your professional experiences. Awesome. But what it likely doesn’t do is convey anything about you, the person.

Step aside, Resumé, and make way for Cover Letter! Ta-daa!

Don’t get me wrong, a strong resumé is crucial when it comes to landing a job. However, a compelling and informative cover letter is what will set you apart from other qualified candidates and get you that interview. Then it’s simply a matter of letting your sparkling personality take over.

So, what’s the key to crafting a convincing cover letter that complements your rockin’ resumé? A little something called AIDA. And she happens to be the oldest copywriting formula out there.

First though, let’s have a closer look at what exactly a cover letter is and does.

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is the bridge that connects your resumé to the job for which you are applying. It’s a chance to both explain your motivation for applying for the position and discuss relevant education, skills and experiences. Unlike the resumé, the cover letter isn’t all about you. Your letter should hit on why you’re the right candidate as well as what kind of benefits you’d bring to the position and the company. That being said, it does provide an opportunity to get more personal by sharing insights about yourself and letting some of your charm shine through your writing. Oh, and it should do all that in about two-thirds of a page.

Easy-peasy, right? Okay, maybe it’s not exactly easy, but follow the approach below and it shouldn’t be too difficult.

How to write a successful cover letter (hint: get help from AIDA)

But first, begin with research

As with any persuasive writing, you can’t expect to jump right in and start hammering out prose without doing some legwork. Get things going by conducting a little research into the company. Visit their website or LinkedIn page. Do a Google search to see if they’ve been in the news. Try to find a mission or value statement as well as any new or recent projects. Also, read the posting and job description closely to pin down keywords, such as specific requirements and abilities relating to the position. Then compare those items with your skillset and experiences.

Employ every copywriter’s bestie – AIDA

AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. Not only is it an excellent marketing formula (and also the name of an opera by Verdi, for you trivia buffs), but it provides a roadmap for the body content of a cover letter.

Attention – Unlike copywriting, you can’t start with a catchy headline; however, you can hook in your reader right off the bat with a strong opening paragraph. Be it a story about why you’re motivated to get this job, how you heard about it, why you’ve always dreamed of being a dog psychologist, etc., this is your chance to introduce yourself and make an impression. Or maybe you want to refer to their mission statement or recent projects that inspired you. Whatever captivating and relevant intro you choose, make sure to also include your name and the job you’re applying for somewhere near the beginning.

Interest – Now that you have their attention, it’s time to pique their curiosity further by talking about them and their needs. Appeal to their self interest. Talk about the importance of the position, what it requires and how you fit the bill with your schooling and experience.

Desire – Provide concrete examples of how you’ve solved problems in the past and how you will help the company advance. If the posting mentions an “ability to adapt,” refer to how, as a business owner during COVID, you had to pivot and do home deliveries, work outside of business hours, etc. Don’t just emphasize your achievements, though. Focus on the benefits you can provide them – like saving time and money. Make them want what you are selling!

Action – You got them hooked, you cranked up the interest, you created the desire, now tell them how to take action. Provide information about how to get in touch with you and when you’re available to discuss this opportunity further.

Cover letter format and other points to keep in mind

  • Once you’ve got the content sorted, ensure that it’s presented the right way. Use a professional template that’s eye-catching and contemporary (ensure fonts, colours, layout match your existing resumé).
  • If possible, find out the name of the hiring manager and address them personally rather than using Sir/Madame or To whom it may concern.
  • Keep the letter under one page in length and have three or four paragraphs.
  • Employ active voice, strong verbs and short sentences to maintain good energy.
  • If it’s a more casual company/position, you may want to think about using an intriguing PS to grab a final bit of attention. But be warned, even though most of us love a good postscript, it could be seen by some as unprofessional, so consider your audience.
  • If submitting the cover letter as an attached document, make sure to include your name in file name, e.g., Jane.Doe.CoverLetter.doc to avoid any issues. Use the same naming convention for the resumé file.
  • Once you’ve done a thorough edit, have a friend give it a read and offer feedback.

A cover letter sells a product – you! Like any good copywriting, the aim is to engage, educate and incite action. By having clean, pertinent content created using the AIDA strategy, you’re sure to make an impact.

Now get to work!

At Rock.Paper.Copy, our professionals work with you to create high-impact, effective copy and turn browsers into buyers.

Nancy Miller
Nancy Miller

Owner and editorial rockstar at Rock.Paper.Copy Writing Solutions

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