Learn how to write a cover letter
A good cover letter will help you land an interview by quickly showing what you’re looking for and what makes you a strong candidate.
Learn how to write one in just four steps.
Step 1: Highlight key words
Re-read the job ad and highlight the key words, just like you did when adapting your CV.
These words will help you identify the employer’s main expectations and indicate what you should focus on in your letter.
SUBMITTING A SPONTANEOUS APPLICATION?
Learn about the company and the type of job you’re targeting.
To learn more about the employer’s potential expectations, read other job ads related to the one you want.
Then adapt your cover letter as if you were responding to a specific job ad.
Too many key words? Make a choice.
- Prioritize the key words that seem the most important to you. You can generally find them at the top of each section in the ad.
- Keep the words that best describe your skills and experience.
- Pay close attention to the requirements for education, experience, transferable skills, professional knowledge and computer skills.
Step 2: Learn more about the company to show that you are interested
Many applicants are not able to explain why they are interested in a particular company or position. And yet, that’s precisely what the recruiters want to know. Win points and use this opportunity to stand out.
How should you proceed? Here are some of the things you can do to prepare:
- Read the company’s LinkedIn page and its employees’ profiles.
- Explore the company’s website.
- The IbisWorld database gives you access to a number of company and industry reports with statistics, market analyses, performance reports and forecasts.
- Use your memory. Make use of information you learned through networking events and informational conversations with professionals.
Steps 3 and 4: Make a plan, then write
A cover letter has three parts, each with a specific purpose. Follow our recommendations and use the examples at the bottom of the page.
This is where you say why you're interested in the company (or the service or department).
You need to start by grabbing the recruiter’s attention! To avoid writing boring, ready-made sentences:
- Think about what you know about the company. Find something that might justify your interest in the employer.
- If possible, think of a story or an anecdote related to the position or the company.
This is where you explain why you are the right person for the job by linking the employer’s expectations to what you have to offer.
- Concentrate on the key words you have picked out.
- Identify which ones describe your skills in relation to the main duties of the job.
- For each skill, try to find a fact, proof, or better yet, an achievement that will convince the employer.
|A FEW EXAMPLES
|Training in logistics
||Studied at HEC Montréal, with a specialization in logistics.
||Wrote a user’s guide for an in-house software program developed by the company EONF-22.
Received a scholarship in recognition of my strong master’s thesis.
Consistently earned higher than a B+ in French classes at CEGEP.
||Spent a semester abroad at Bamberg University (Germany).
Learned French (superior level) in under 12 months.
|Excellent organization and time management skills
||For the..., I managed X projects under very tight deadlines, all while working part time and studying. I managed to maintain a GPA of 3.4 out of 4.3.
|The above are only examples of what you can write. People with more experience can draw upon their academic and professional experience.
Need help highlighting your achievements? Use the CAR technique (Context, Action, Result). Learn how by going to the page Highlighting Your Achievements.
State your desire to meet the recruiter.
- Clearly state that you are available and would like to meet in person.
- Use a standard closing. Refer to one of the model letters.
Writing tips and errors to avoid
- Set aside enough time to write. The first letters you write will require more effort, but you will get faster with more practice.
- Tell the employer what you would bring to the job and how you can meet their expectations. Don’t talk about your needs.
- Try not to write a generic letter. The recruiter expects you to talk to them about the job offer, the stated expectations and why you want this particular job.
- Explain all the reasons why you're right for the job, or you won't manage to convince the recruiter. Pay special attention to transferable skills.
Example: “I demonstrated my innovative mindset through my substantial contribution to growing profits by developing new tax and financial strategies.”
- Avoid repeating what already appears on your CV. Your cover letter and CV are supposed to be complementary, not redundant. Go back to talking about your strengths—explain them and link them back to the job requirements.
- Be specific. At the very beginning, state what you’re applying for.
Re: Application for the position of Data Manager – YP12306.
- Make sure you follow the instructions of the employer: some require the application to be addressed to a specific person, while others require you to specify certain details (your availability, for example).
- Your letter should be neither too long nor too short. The current practice is to write 3 to 5 paragraphs on one page.
- Try not to write several sentences in a row that start with the same word. “I am interested in your company.” “I have a bachelor’s in business administration.” “I have a background in project management.”
- Make sure the layout of your letter looks sharp. Your letter reveals what type of employee you will be. Show that you are professional. Proof for typos and language issues, such as spelling, syntax and grammar mistakes. Reread your letter and have someone else read it for you.
How to submit your application
Make sure your application arrives safely and in keeping with current standards.
Read on to learn more.
Find out more
Career Management Services offers several individual services and workshops to help you submit a winning application to employers.