Over the years I've applied for a fair number of jobs and hence written quite a few cover letters, leading to quite a few interviews. This is the notes I use when putting together a cover letter, just because a few people have asked.
I've also been on the "other side of the table" reading cover letters and CVs from other techies and helping interview them for various techie roles. So I guess this is also notes on what I want to see when I'm reading cover letters too.
I'm a techie, I apply for techie roles. My paperwork has two main functions:
- Be professional & clear enough to pass the initial recruitment filtering
- Tell a senior techie enough to decide whether to talk to me
Cover letter checklist
With that caveat stated, my cover letters follow this general structure...
- Standard greeting. Ideally you'll know who you're talking to, otherwise go for a safe anonymous business letter approach.
- Who I am. My name and a sentence or two (max) about me in nice clear language that at least vaguely matches the role title.
- Why I am writing. I'm not trying for subtle flirting here - I'm being obvious early on in the letter about my purpose.
- Why I want the role. This includes some indication that I understand what the role is, what the organisation does and at least one reason why I'm interested.
- Why they should hire me. May give a bit more detail here, an introduction to what I can do, with either specific examples or pointers to my CV. This is where I should probably sell myself more and better, but I prefer to let the CV do that.
- Invite to contact. Include any specific details they may need to arrange the contact.
- Sign off. You're done, no waffling, save it for a phone call/cafe trip or whatever.
I'm not going to give a real example, but I have written a number of successful (i.e. I got invited to an interview) letters which looked at least passingly similar to the following...
I am Fred Bloggs, a <senior flibble techie> who has been <writing good code> and <doing good work> in <related industries> for <some time>.
I am writing to apply for the role you advertised of <senior flibble techie> on the careers page your website.
Having seen what you do and read your role description, I think I'd like working with you doing that as I have enjoyed working with
You are seeking someone who can do X and I have proved I can do X-ish on a couple of projects, as mentioned on my CV <and maybe other places>.
I would like the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this role and whether I could be a good fit for your team. Please see my included CV for more details of my skillset and experience.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Rather important: Always remember your contact details.
They may go at the top (formal letter style) or at the bottom (standard email style) or in another part of a form (dreaded job application forms)
But they aren't going to go hunting for you, makes sure they can reach you using the bit of paper or the page of info they have in front of them.
And finally, a few notes from the other side of the table
- Please keep it to a single page and not a wall of text
- If you say you can do X, make sure you can talk about X, at least a little bit
- "band member" is almost always more desirable than "rockstar"