Writing a cover letter that will get you hired: the essentials | Hitmarker | Skillshare
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Writing a cover letter that will get you hired: the essentials

teacher avatar Hitmarker, Multi-award-winning job platform

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

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

    • 1.

      Introduction

      1:39

    • 2.

      What does a cover letter do?

      1:54

    • 3.

      What should a cover letter highlight?

      2:49

    • 4.

      How do you open a cover letter?

      1:49

    • 5.

      Writing a valuable paragraph

      4:12

    • 6.

      So what? Making your points matter

      2:08

    • 7.

      Closing your cover letter

      2:05

    • 8.

      Finishing touches

      2:22

    • 9.

      What now?

      0:42

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About This Class

In this course, multi-award-winning job platform Hitmarker takes you through how to build a winning cover letter one step at a time. Starting at the top and working down the document, you’ll learn what each section should achieve, what should be included, and how you can really impress a hiring manager.

Perfect for new job seekers or experienced professionals wondering if they can improve their applications, you'll finish this course with all the information you need to craft a cover letter that demonstrates why you're the best person for the job.

Some of the key areas covered are:

  • What a good cover letter should do (and what you should highlight)
  • How to start your cover letter
  • How to write paragraphs that demonstrate your strengths
  • How to link your cover letter to a job description
  • How to finish your cover letter

...all with examples and pointers along the way to help you make the best document possible.

Meet Your Teacher

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Hitmarker

Multi-award-winning job platform

Teacher

Hitmarker is the leading video game job platform and has helped countless people find careers they love. Over the past four years the Hitmarker staff team has conducted hundreds of application reviews for its users, and is now bringing that knowledge to Skillshare. Expect courses on job applications, hiring practises, and plenty of other insights around modern ways of work from this multi-award-winning company.

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: You could be the perfect candidate for the job, but if you can't leave a positive impression then you're unlikely to be taken through to the next stage of the hiring process. This means that you need to leave no doubt in the mind of the person reading your application that you're worth looking into further, which is where a clear and impactful cover letter comes in. Thank you for checking out this course on writing an exceptional cover letter, brought to you by Hitmarker. I'm Will, and over my time at Hitmarker I've seen hundreds of cover letters from all sorts of different candidates. Over the years we've developed a keen eye for what works best when it comes to creating a cover letter that is well laid out, easy to read, and adds value to your application. That's what this course will teach you to do. We've aimed to cut up the process of creating a cover letter into easy-to-digest and follow sections, with an emphasis on explaining not only what you should be doing, but also the logic and reasoning behind each decision. The process of writing a tailored cover letter may seem daunting, but over a few short lessons you'll have the tools you need to do just that. Each lesson will go into detail about one aspect of the cover letter, whether that's what you should be including or how you should be laying out the information, and will equip you with the tools needed to succeed. At the end of each class, we'll be giving you a project task that will help you turn the advice we covered into something practical you can do to your cover letter. It's all well and good for us to share our tips and tricks, but we wanted to also provide you with a few guided steps to make sure you're moving in the right direction. Now that we've got you all up to speed with what this course will do, let's move on to our first lesson: what actually is a cover letter? 2. What does a cover letter do?: So, what is a cover letter then? Most job listings ask for them, but sometimes it can be a bit unclear what the hiring company actually wants. This lesson is all about reminding ourselves what a cover letter actually is. Making sure you get it right is crucial. You could be the perfect candidate for the job, but if you can't leave a positive impression then you're unlikely to be taken through to the next stage of the hiring process. This means that you need to leave no doubt in the mind of the person reading your application that you're worth looking into further, which is where a clear and impactful cover letter comes in. While your resume is an overview of your professional life so far, your cover letter is a little more long-form, it allows you to explain why you're worth taking to interview. This means that rather than trying to mention everything that you've done so far in your career, you want to choose a few key points and go into detail with them. We'll be talking about what to include in our next lesson, so for now, it's enough to mention that your cover letter is just a place to go into deeper detail than in any other written document in your initial application. Not only is your cover letter a chance to go into more detail about what you can bring to a company, it also allows you to show more personality in your application than in your resume. Topics such as who you are as an employee, what you get up to in your spare time, and what else makes you...well, you, can all find a home in your cover letter. Finally, if you're a strong written communicator, which a lot of roles are looking for, then the cover letter is the best place to show this off. Your resume is a little too brief to present your written abilities, as you don't really write more than a couple of sentences in each section, but the cover letter will be much more of, well, a letter, so there's more room to show off this side of you as well. We don't have a project task for this lesson, since we've just been going over what a cover letter actually is, so we'll move swiftly on to our next class, where we'll be going over what you want to include in your cover letter in terms of actual content. 3. What should a cover letter highlight?: We've talked about what a cover letter is and what it should achieve, so now we're going to touch on what should the document actually highlight? Should your previous jobs be the focus, or should you expand on who you are outside of work instead? We'll be helping you to answer this and more in this lesson. In broad terms, your cover letter should highlight your specific fit to the job you're applying for. You should be leaning on past experience, your top skills, and your education to show the company exactly why you're the person who's going to excel in the role they're hiring for. Here's how you can do just that. In order to write a great cover letter, you're going to need to have the job description you're applying to open as a reference as you go. Take a look at the job's responsibilities section: what is the company listing right at the top? These are likely to be the most crucial responsibilities for the role, so you want to tell the company exactly why you're a fit for those specifically. The first way to do this is through any past jobs that you've held with similar responsibilities. If a company wants you to take ownership of their sales funnel and you have a background of doing this from scratch, then make that very clear in your cover letter. The second way to show that you're a great fit for the job is for your personal and professional skills: are any of these applicable to those responsibilities listed up high on the job description? Then be sure to tell the hiring manager this, especially if you've not been able to through past experience. Your education is the final method of highlighting your fit for a job, and is likely to be utilized more when you're a junior level candidate rather than anything else. This is where you can use any courses, modules, methodologies, or anything else that you've studied that's relevant to the job description. This will show the hiring manager that your profile is a good fit. These are the three main tools you have to highlight your fit for a job, but it's important not to bombard the hiring manager with too much information. Your cover letter shouldn't be more than a page in length, so aim for three cases where you can compare a part of your background to the job you're applying for, and you should be right around this mark. And remember that, in some cases, you can be more informal in your cover letter than in your resume. If you're applying for a creative discipline or to a company in a young industry like gaming and esports, for example, then there's room for you to display some personality. Just remember to keep your document professional, above all. There's no sense in including something so unorthodox that you risk your application being discarded altogether, just through the way you've written your cover letter. With all that said, it's now time for your project! We'd like you to find a dream job and pick out a few of the key responsibilities in the job listing. Then think about your profile and aim to come up with a few things you could mention in your cover letter that would support your fit for this role. We'll see you in the next class once you've done that, where we'll be looking at how to open a cover letter. 4. How do you open a cover letter?: As small sentences go, those first few words of a cover letter are always nerve-wracking to write. Never fear though — we're here to tell you the correct way to open your cover letter so you approach the next one feeling confident in how you started. A good cover letter opening is essential in order to leave a positive first impression on the hiring manager. Your salutation—that's the way you address the letter— should be respectful, but not overly formal or outdated. Unless you're in a very traditional industry, then you should be avoiding the likes of, "To whom it may concern" and, "Dear sir or madam". A lot of younger, more tech-focused companies will prefer openings such as "Hello" or "Greetings". These are friendly, professional alternatives that you should be using. In the first paragraph of your cover letter, it is important to be visibly excited about the job itself, as well as the company and their values. Believe us when we say, showing early on that yours is not a copy-and-pasted cover letter can go a long way when it's all the hiring manager has been seeing for the past 15 minutes. We'll give you a few ideas of what you can speak about in the first paragraph. Using Google News, you can see if the company has been covered by any media outlets lately. Depending on the topic of these, it could help inform what you say about them. Or, you could check their company LinkedIn feed to see what they've been posting about lately. Perhaps there's a new initiative they've launched, or an award they've won, or expansion they have been coming up with for a while that you can reference. All of these are ways that you can set yourself out from the crowd as early as the first paragraph. Once you've taken these steps, you'll be on the road to writing a successful cover letter. Your task off the back of this lesson is straightforward: write a seamless first paragraph based off the job that you're applying to, and see if it aligns with the advice that we have given you here. Then join us in our next lesson: 'Writing a valuable paragraph'. 5. Writing a valuable paragraph: Now that we've got a good grasp on what a cover letter should do and include, as well as a strong opening, we can move on to talking about how to write a great and useful cover letter paragraph. We obviously can't tell you exactly what to include— we aren't mind readers after all— but we will be sharing the format we suggest you follow, as it's a simple solution that gets everything you need over to the hiring manager while also making a cover letter a little easier to write. Now, you want to grab those points you decided you wanted to highlight at the end of lesson three, as these will make up the basis of each paragraph. Once you've got them each in their own section, we can go into our suggested format. So, let's talk about the PEAL method. PEAL, or P-E-A-L, stands for Point, Evidence, Analysis, Link. At the risk of sounding too much like your high school English teacher, this is the simplest way of ensuring that you've included everything you need in each paragraph, and it makes your value so obvious to the hiring manager. We'll be ignoring the Link part of this technique for now, as that's the part that needs the most explaining, to the point where we decided to give it its own lesson, but we'll quickly go over what each other bit of PEAL should achieve and why it's so important. You already have a list of points, so the Point section should be nice and easy. We're also hopeful that you understand why you need these in your cover letter. We're usually too classy to make really obvious puns, but without these your cover letter would be a bit pointless. When the hiring manager makes notes on you, or feeds back to the company about you, the points you make should basically be the things you want them to be saying. A nicely written sentence at the start of each paragraph introducing the point is all that's really needed here, so don't feel like you need to get too fancy with it. Now, Evidence should also be pretty easy to come by if you've kept your points to provable experience and skills, but if not, it gets a little bit more complicated. With each of the points you've made, you need to follow up just to show the hiring manager that what you're saying is true. You should lean on things that can be shown briefly in your resume and expand on them in your cover letter, like achievements that show you're skilled in a certain area or experience you have verifiably done. This won't necessarily be the thing that wows the hiring manager, but it is necessary, as any point that you can't prove can and may well just be ignored. Don't labour the point, but do enough to ensure no one reading your cover letter is in any doubt that your points are legitimate. And finally, for this lesson, let's talk about how and why you need to analyze your points. Up to this stage, you should have a good point that you've proved is true. Now you need to go into a little more detail on why the point you chose is something that should impress or intrigue the hiring company. You get to control the message for the hiring manager. Leaving out analysis means that the hiring manager will draw their own conclusions on each point you make, which will almost always be less impressive than the truth if you're choosing to include it. Make sure that the hiring manager understands why you've chosen to include this bit of experience, and why it's one of the most impressive things about you that's relevant to the job you're going for. You can do this in a couple of ways, by either expanding on the skills and abilities you've gained from the point you are making, or expressing why the point you are making was so successful. If you're talking about your marketing skills and using years of social media experience as the evidence for this, then either going into the graphic design and SEO skills you developed as a result of this experience, or the verification and successful advertising campaigns you did in the role, are both valid strategies. This is where you want to wow the hiring manager, so choose the biggest and brightest things related to the point and evidence, and spend some time fleshing them out. If you write each of these sections, you should have a few paragraphs that make strong points, are backed up by evidence, and impress the hiring manager. Your class project, which I'm sure you've guessed by now, is to do just that. Take some time with this project; it's a really major part of your cover letter. Don't worry about the Link, as we're about to get into that in the next class. I'll see you in there once you've had a chance to look through this lesson's task. 6. So what? Making your points matter: Last lesson, we spoke about the main paragraphs of your cover letter using the PEAL method, but you'll have noticed that we didn't cover what the L stands for really. Fortunately for you, the last sentence of the PEAL paragraph is what this lesson is all about. It's not too tricky to get right, but getting it spot on is hugely important to the overall message of your cover letter. But what does a Link sentence do? That's the L in PEAL for those of you who have forgotten. Essentially, you want to take what you've spoken about so far in your paragraph and tell the hiring manager why this is relevant to the job description they've posted. This is your key tool in combatting 'So what?' in your job description. 'So what?' is one of the worst situations you can ever come across in an application, especially in initial stages like cover letters as it puts you in a negative light. This is essentially where a hiring manager looks at something you've submitted and goes, 'So what?' at the end of it. This might not sound so bad, but remember that space is at a premium in a job application, so wasting any space on something that isn't immediately relevant should absolutely be avoided. And this is essentially why you add a linking sentence to the end of each point that you make, to make sure that the hiring manager is left in no doubt about why you included this information. If you have clearly summed up your point and linked it back to the job description itself, then they really cannot fault you for including it. Writing this sentence is also a great test for whether or not the points you've chosen to include in your cover letter are actually relevant. If you're struggling to link what you've said back to the job description, then you have to ask yourself why you've chosen to include it. Your project task for this lesson is to look over the example paragraphs we've linked to this lesson's handout and have a go at adding your own to the paragraphs you should already have created from your last project. Once you've done this, have a go at highlighting each paragraph four different colors to make sure you've hit every aspect of PEAL. If you've missed anything, fix it, and if you've found anything that doesn't fit, consider cutting it out. Now we can get on to our next lesson, which is all about how to close out your cover letter. 7. Closing your cover letter: By now your cover letter should have showcased your professional skills, driven these home with impactful paragraphs, and linked these to the jobs you're applying to. The hiring manager should have a clear picture of who you are as a professional, which means it's time to close out this document in a personable and professional manner. As we've mentioned in previous lessons, the cover letter does allow you to show some personality in it — provided you don't go overboard. You can utilize these final few sentences to do just that. What's prompted you to apply to this job or company in particular? Is there something about your profession that you especially love? Is there something you'd particularly like to achieve in this position? In other words, be you! Giving the hiring manager a glimpse of the person behind the application. If there's nothing you can mention that's directly related to the job or company, then it's also fine to include a sentence along the lines of, 'Outside of work, you'll probably find me doing X, Y, and Z.' This still adds a nice human element to an application without the need for you to fabricate anything. You've made it this far; be sure to remain honest and transparent, as lying will do you absolutely no favors in a job application. All that's left to do now is sign off your document in a respectful manner. Avoid any overly-confident approaches like, 'I can't wait to be your next hire,' or, 'Yours Sincerely, your next sales manager,' or whatever the job title is. Trust us, 99 times out of 100 this will leave a bad taste in the hiring manager's mouth. Of course, if the company has specifically asked you to do something like this, then by all means. But if not, we advise against this kind of sign off. Instead, use something like, 'Thanks for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.' This puts the ball in their court without being too pushy. Then end it with 'Best wishes,' 'Regards,' or another courteous sign off and write your full name underneath. That's it! You've now ended what should be a really impactful cover letter. Your task for this lesson is a simple one: using what we've spoke about here, write a cover letter sign off that achieves the right tone. Then join us in our next lesson: 'Adding the finishing touches' 8. Finishing touches: At this stage, you should have a fully written cover letter, which is awesome! This draft shouldn't be too far from the finished product, but this lesson will be all about making those final couple of changes and decisions that will make your cover letter the best it can be. The first thing you want to be doing with your cover letter is tailoring it to the specifics of each job. Generally speaking, you shouldn't ever be happy submitting the same cover letter for two different positions, as it won't be specific to the role you've created it for. The cover letter you've created as your project from this class should be tailored to the job role you have in mind for it. But next time, you will have to go over the whole process [again] rather than just making a couple of changes and submitting an almost identical resume. Don't delete your cover letter after submitting it, as sections might be worth looking at again for similar roles in the future, but please write each one fresh for the best results. Something you should also be doing every time you write a cover letter is an out-loud grammar reading for the whole letter, and have a friend do one as well if you can get them to help. This helps catch not only spelling and grammar errors, which a cursory proof may well miss, but it's also the best way to make sure your sentences aren't too long or complicated. It takes a little longer than just quickly scanning it quietly, but the extra five minutes spent reading aloud could catch some pretty major issues at times. Missing words, commas, or full stops will all come to light during an out-loud proofread. The job application process takes a decent amount of time, so don't cut corners when you've done everything else correctly. Finally, when it comes to saving your cover letter, make sure it's saved as both an editable document and a PDF. The PDF is the document you want to be sending off to the company, and we even have a few guidelines on how you should be naming it. Make sure it's clearly labelled as yours, rather than just a generic 'cover_letter.pdf' A good naming convention is 'firstname_lastname_coverletter.pdf' as this makes it easy for the hiring manager to find. We'll leave some instructions on how to save your documents as a PDF in the class notes, so make sure to have a look at those if you need some guidance in this area. Once your cover letter is edited and saved you should be all set. Now your project task is to have one last check over your application and send it off to the job that you want to apply for. Our next lesson is going to round out this class, and let you know what else you could be looking at to improve your future job applications. 9. What now?: And with that, you've made it through our course on cover letters — massive congratulations! We hope that the advice we've presented here has helped you understand how to write an awesome cover letter, and that you're feeling more confident than ever for your next job application. The cover letter alone is unlikely to be the only step between you and your dream job, but never fear! We have classes on both resume writing and interview techniques that will help you in a similar way to this one. Make sure to follow our Skillshare page to find these other classes and more as they're produced and released. Thanks again for watching, and if you've enjoyed our class and found it useful, please don't forget to leave a review below. We're really excited to see you all land that perfect job. Good luck out there!