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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

What is a cover letter?

6 min read
What is a cover letter?
Artwork by:Aleksandra Zabnina
A well-written cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd and get you noticed by employers faster.

What makes a great cover letter? 

Impressive cover letters that stand out to employers possess certain elements and features that differentiate them from the cover letters of other candidates. These features captivate the attention of employers and can also position you as a standout applicant in a highly competitive pool. So, what makes a truly engaging cover letter? 

Your cover letter feels authentic 

First thing’s first: an exceptional cover letter is one that exudes authenticity, captivating employers with its genuine tone and sincere expression. When a cover letter feels inherently genuine, it establishes a strong connection with the reader, conveying your true personality and leaving a lasting impression that sets you apart from other applicants. This means that your professional essence is integrated into your cover letter. To achieve this, you’ll need to identify your motivations for applying for the role and what your values are and how they may align with the job role. It can be helpful to ask yourself the following questions: How would I feel if I was an employer and I read this? Does my writing feel genuine and sincere? Is what I wrote honest? If you’re struggling, it can be a great idea to share your cover letter drafts with a friend or someone you trust – sometimes, a fresh perspective can help us improve our writing! 

Potential employers can feel your personality in your cover letter

While your CV conveys your technical work experience, education and skills, your cover letter is a lot more free-form, which means that you’re free to share important, relevant and valuable ideas, insights and thoughts with potential employers. Cover letters are your chance to share your professional background and personality with employers, giving potential employers a glimpse into your professional persona. 

Your enthusiasm for the job role shines through 

Enthusiasm is infectious: to make your cover letter more captivating, your enthusiasm for the job role should be evident throughout your cover letter.  Your passion and excitement will grab the reader's attention and make a lasting impression! It's important to showcase your genuine excitement for the job role and the company you're applying to. One effective way to do this is by highlighting specific aspects of the role or company that genuinely excite you. This could include mentioning specific projects or initiatives they are involved in or their impact in the community. Employers also love it when they see that candidates have done their homework - so don't forget to do your research on the company you're applying to! 

Your cover letter feels customised to the job role

It's important that your cover letter is customised to the role you're applying for -- by tailoring your cover letter to the specific job you're applying for, employers will take your application seriously, enhancing your chances of getting the much-awaited callback! Delve into your knowledge of the company and demonstrate your genuine interest in the role. By addressing the company's values, goals, and objectives, you can align your professional personality with their organisational culture and convey that you are the perfect candidate for the role.

What to avoid when crafting your cover letter

A poorly-crafted cover letter can destroy your chances of getting the job you're applying for, however, it's not always easy to determine what can turn your cover letter from a recipe for success to a downright flop. Here's a list of common traps and pitfalls that candidates should steer clear of: 


When writing a cover letter, it's important to avoid using arrogant language and instead focus on exhibiting confidence. There's a difference! Arrogance can be a turn-off for potential employers, as it can give the impression that you are overly self-centred or dismissive of others. On the other hand, confidence allows you to showcase your abilities and qualifications without appearing arrogant. To achieve this balance, it's important to back your claims up with evidence. For instance, if you believe that you are skilled in sales or marketing, you can include specific examples of your past successes in those areas. Focus on expressing your enthusiasm for the position and how your skills align with the company’s needs. Unsure of how your tone comes across in your cover letter? Don’t forget, you can always share your cover letter with a trusted friend and get feedback!


Negativity can be just as infectious as enthusiasm, so it’s important to avoid using negative language or examples in your cover letter. A positive cover letter not only showcases your professional attributes and achievements, but it also projects a confident and optimistic outlook. This can significantly enhance your chances of making a strong impression on potential employers and increase the likelihood of employers reaching out. 

Unnecessary or irrelevant content

When writing your cover letter, it's important that your writing contributes meaningfully to your overall message. Employers don't want to read overly lengthy text, nor are they interested in irrelevant details! By being selective with what you include in your cover letter  and focusing only on what matters most, you can capture the attention of employers and maximise your chances of success.

Don't forget to thoroughly review the job description and identify specific skills and qualifications the employer is seeking: this will help you create a compelling and convincing cover letter. 

Generic, run-of-the-mill phrases

Avoid using overly generic phrases and clichés that could make your application bland and boring. To leave a lasting impression and stand out from the competition, it's important to infuse your cover letter with personalised and specific language that truly reflects your skills, experiences, and enthusiasm for the position. For this reason, it’s a great idea to tailor your language to match the job description. Pay attention to the keywords and phrases the employer uses to describe the desired qualifications and incorporate them into your cover letter when applicable. By using the same language as the employer, you demonstrate that you're a great fit for the role and have a clear understanding of what they're looking for.

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