How to Write a Winning Cover Letter in Less Than 20 Minutes (with free downloadable template) | Greg Langstaff | Skillshare

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How to Write a Winning Cover Letter in Less Than 20 Minutes (with free downloadable template)

teacher avatar Greg Langstaff, Certified Resume Strategist. Fun Guy.

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (16m)
    • 1. 01 Introduction to Cover Letter Writing

    • 2. 02 What the Hiring Manager is Looking for in Your Cover Letter

    • 3. 03 Preparing to Write

    • 4. 04 What to write about in your Cover Letter

    • 5. 05 Writing the Cover Letter

    • 6. 06 Next Steps

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About This Class

As a follow up to my How to Write a Winning Resume and Land Your Dream Job course, I thought I would spend a few minutes explaining to you, how to write a great cover letter as quickly and easily as possible. 

I've attached a template with examples and throughout the short course, I teach you how to fill it in with your own winning content!

By the end of the course, you'll be able to write a professional-level cover letter in less than 20 minutes!

If you need any other help with your job search, check out my website where I've got a ton of great resources. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Greg Langstaff

Certified Resume Strategist. Fun Guy.


Hey there! I'm Greg Langstaff, a Certified Resume Strategist and Interview Coach registered with the Career Professionals of Canada. I've spent 10+ years as a recruiter and hiring manager, and I've also spent the last 5 years helping people get great jobs. Next, I'd like to help you!

I believe that we're all excellent people, and that some of us just need a little help expressing how great we are during our job search. That's where I come in. Check out my courses to learn how to market yourself as an ideal candidate for your target employer :)

When I'm not writing a resume, or face-lifting someone's LinkedIn profile, you might find me watching basketball (Go Raptors!), or putting together a comedy show with my friends.


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1. 01 Introduction to Cover Letter Writing: Hi, I'm Greg laying stuff. I'm a certified resume writer. I've written hundreds of cover letters for clients in Canada and the United States, and today I'm gonna teach you how I write a cover letter in less than 20 minutes. Now, personally, I love writing cover letters, but I know that a lot of people do find it kind of tedious and annoying. So I'm gonna teach you today how to do it in the most painless and even enjoyable way as possible. So I do know that it's tempting to just write one generic cover letter and kind of use that for every job you're applying to. But from my time as a recruiter and a hiring manager, I can tell you that we can pick up on that right away. So if you're serious about applying to a specific job in need to write a specific cover letter for that job, um, now you can use a template and attached to this course. I've uploaded template that I use, and there are just pieces of it that you update every time. So throughout this course, I'm just gonna teach you how to update those pieces of the template so that you can have a specific catered cover letter for every job you're applying to. Now, if you haven't read your resume yet, I recommend checking out my how to write a winning resume course, which you can find just by clicking on my teacher profile. It'll be right there or if you've written a resume and you just want to check, you did everything right. That's a great resource for that. But if you're ready to write a cover letter, wouldn't get started with that right now. 2. 02 What the Hiring Manager is Looking for in Your Cover Letter: So I've heard a lot of people refer to the cover letter as pointless and personally, I could see a day when we no longer need cover letters. But for now we do, Um So I'm gonna just teach you kind of right now, what are the things that the hiring manager is looking for in a cover letter? The first thing really is just the effort. They want to see that you were willing to put together a specific cover letter document for this job because they want to know that you care about this job and if you get it, you'll take the job seriously and always do your best. The second thing that they're looking for is just your written communication skills. So in nearly every job you have to be able to write in one way, shape or form. A cover letter is a great way for them to test or evaluate your writing skills. And the third thing that they're looking for is really answering for them to specific questions. And this is what we were actually going to write about in the cover letter. The first question is, why did you apply to this job specifically, and the 2nd 1 is, what work have you done in the past that would help you to be good at this job. So this is really our first chance to kind of pitch ourselves for the job. Think of this is kind of the thesis that will eventually you'll revisit in the interview, and we'll also be reiterated in your resume in the cover letter. So we're really we're answering. Why should you hire me for this job? 3. 03 Preparing to Write: a big part of writing a successful cover letter is understanding what the hiring manager is looking for so that we know what experiences to talk about while we're writing our cover letter. Luckily for us, that information can be easily found by quickly reading and dissecting the job posting for the position that we're pursuing. If you've done my resume writing course, you would have seen a similar activity to this. Um so here we dissect this job posting, and we're looking for two things. So this is the table I use. We're looking for a job duties, um, that they want us to be able to do, like, manage social media accounts are designed digital marketing campaigns. Ah, manager team, etcetera. And second, we're looking for any work behaviors that they mentioned. And these could include things like working in a fast paced environment or being ableto work independently. Um, so to track these two pieces, I just make a simple graph like this, and ah, as we fill the two columns, we're gonna find, you know, keywords, which the hiring manager is looking for and also which the automated resume scanners will be trying to pick up Um and they do scan cover letters as well. So it's definitely a great place to include some of these key words. Um, I've created one of these tables for you in the project section of the course, but obviously it is a very simple table, so you can recreate it yourself if you need to. Um, so the process. It's pretty simple. Um, but I'm gonna take a minute to just kind of work through an example now for you, so you can see how it's done. Um, so I've compiled a fictional job posting for a marketing manager position at Greg's basketball camp. Kind of a dream of mine to own a basketball camp one day. Um, so let's first look at the job duties. Uh, we've got here determining a vision, managing a team, creating marketing and communications strategy, inbound marketing, brand development, online presence advertising, social media management event sponsorship, managing budgets, overseeing a team again, uh, collaborate with sales team on marketing strategy design, integrated online campaigns and even some evaluation and assessment and tracking. Uh, next, we're gonna look at work behaviours and values that they're looking for. So you've got things that are important to them. Health, wellness, leadership skills, family friendship, loyalty, fast paced environment. And then, as I always say, it's a good idea to underlined the job title and anything else that seems interesting. Do you hear? Just you've got a good handle on it. Now, you may have noticed that we've basically underlined every word in the job posting, which is pretty standard because, as I always say, a well written job posting doesn't waste space on unimportant words. So we'll just assume every single job. We're sorry. Every single word in this posting means something. Um, no. If you are filling out your table with with these words, we've got highlighted here. It looks something like this. And the next step is we're gonna find a couple of key words that were key job duties that are critical to this position and those air what we're going to really focus on in the cover letter. So let's take a moment and do that now. 4. 04 What to write about in your Cover Letter: Now that we have a good handle on the job that we're applying to, we're going toe. Decide what it is specifically that we want to talk about in a cover letter. Now, we only have one page to work with. So we've got to make sure we make the space count. The first thing we do is using this list that we made when we were dissecting the job posting. Under the job duties function, I want you to pick three duties that seem like central pieces of the job that you're applying to and that you can also speak about from your own experience. So three things that will be important to this job and you've also done in your past. Ah, in this case, I'm gonna highlight, manage a team, create marketing and communications strategy and social media management. And now that we've identified these three topics, that's what we're gonna focus on in the cover letter. Uh, next, we'll talk about what to say about those experiences so you can do that using the worksheet that I created for, uh for you. And let's do we'll do a couple of those now together just so you can see how it works. And then, um, you can use the cover letter topics worksheet that I created to do this on your own. So we identified one of the most important topics that we want to cover on the cover on the cover letter as managing a team. Next, we'll just make a note of where and when we did this. So, as marketing coordinator coordinator at a a core court, um, we did this. And next we're just gonna briefly identify what it is that we learned from this experience . So in this case, we learned some key skills around delegation, team, building, trust and communication. And now here we've got a great foundation for one of the topics that we want to cover in a cover letter. Ah, and we'll do one more example and then I'll just show you how to turn this into a paragraph . After that. Eso, for our second topic we identified create a marketing strategy as important. Ah, the ability to create a marketing strategy. I should say, um and we've we've done that as marketing manager at Disney Parks. Um, and what did we learn? But we learned some digital marketing tactics. We learned about campaign building. We learned about brand building, so you'll do this three times. But I also recommend just make sure that you prioritize your top two because we don't always have time to fully dive into three separate topics. So just make sure that the 1st 2 are the most important in case you run out of space. Um, now that we've got some well thought through topics to include in a cover letter, l sh show you how to actually write it. And it should be nice and easy, so let's get to that now. 5. 05 Writing the Cover Letter: Alright, it's time to start writing now. Formatting the cover letter is very simple. For the heading, I recommend you just use the exact same heading as you did in your resume for consistency sake. Uh and then you'll include the company name and address in the top left like this and while while addressing the cover letter. If you know the name of the hiring manager and you can mention them by name, that's great. I'd recommend that, but otherwise dear hiring manager works just fine. Uh, no. For the content. I like to think of the cover letter as kind of like a tiny version of the standard five paragraph essay that we wrote in high school. Ah, so the intro paragraph you're basically announcing that you're applying to this job and telling them 2 to 3 key skills that you have that kind of explain why you chose to apply to this job and why you think you will be good at it. And for us, we're going to use the those skills that we identified earlier. So here's an example. Just so you can kind of see how that looks and Indy cover letter template that I uploaded to this course, Uh, this languages in there feel free to copy as much of it as you need and adjust the's small parts, like the job title and the company and those skills. But feel free to borrow the rest of it as much as you need. Um, so the second and third paragraph and then fourth. If we have space, we're gonna briefly touch upon those skills and experiences we identified in the previous activity. Ah, and then to fill out those paragraphs, I have a simple four sentence formula that I'm going to explain to you now. So this is what one of those paragraphs would look like. And in the first sentence, we're really just going to explain why that this skill is important to this position. So it's a simple as this, um, where we say it is essential that your next manager be skilled in effectively managing a high functioning team in the second sentence will list the job that we were doing when we gained that skill Onda task associate ID. So, for example, ah, in my two years as marketing coordinator at A Corp. I was responsible for overseeing the training and work flow of a team of three digital marketing assistance. The third sentence. We're gonna kind of explain what we learned from that experience, which was that third line in our activity sheet. So here's an example. In this role, I learned how to strategically delegate work, build a team with a culture of trust and establish an open line of effective communication to enable my team to produce outstanding work. And then finally, in the fourth sentence, we're just gonna tell them how we want to bring that skill to their team. Eso, for example. Here I feel that management it's one of my strongest skills, and I would love to bring these talents to your team at Greg's basketball camp and notice several times in the resume. Already, we've mentioned the job title that we're applying to and the company name. This is just a nice little tip that helps them realize that you wrote this cover letter specifically for this job. All right, so let's talk about this and how it fits into the whole cover letter. Um, so for these body paragraphs, I'd like to if I have space, include a little heading like this and this just kind of breaks up the text and also gives him a bit of a preview of what's to come. And when you glance at the resume with these headings, you're just going to see those three main skills or experiences right off the bat. Now, the fifth and final paragraph after you've repeated this 2 to 3 times and sorry, Just remember that if you're going over one page, you do need to cut because the cover letter, it has to be one page maximum. So if you could only fit two of these body paragraphs, that's okay. Totally fine. Oh, no. The fifth paragraph is sort of a very quick thank you for reading and also a chance for you to mention something that maybe you like about what the company does. So here's sort of my sign off paragraph, and you can see in that second sentence I mentioned that Greg's basketball camp has done so much for promoting wellness and leadership to basketball, which again you might remember from the job posting was something that was kind of in their mission that they mentioned um and I say I would love the chance to contribute to your continued success. Kind of a nice, simple wrap up. And then finally, um, we're just going to sign off. I go with sincerely, typically and then include my name. Um, so if you use this formula, just make sure you're keeping it to one page, and if you need to trim anything, go ahead. You should be able to fit it all within one page, though, and be just fine. 6. 06 Next Steps: All right, We have reached the end of the cover letter course just like the cover letter writing process. The course was under 20 minutes. I hope that you're feeling ready to get out there and write your first or your next cover letter. If I could get you to take one thing away from this course, it is to do that first. Little bit of research. It's only a couple of minutes, but that'll just help you set up a foundation for great content in your cover letter, your resume and your interviews. Now, if you're still job searching, I'd recommend checking out my teacher channel. I have a lot of other videos that are designed to help you with the job search process. And if you have any questions or you want to post a cover letter that you wrote here in the course, I will take a look at it and I will give you my honest feedback to help you make it the best cover letter possible. That's all for me for today. Good luck