Writing a Cover Letter: 8 tips for crafting a cover letter that gets noticed

Written by Erin Bankersen

In a recent Weekly Online Community Chat (WOCC), HR coach, Marjolijn Vlug, shared some great info about writing a killer cover letter. Following Marjolijn’s advice for writing a cover letter, will help your CV rise to the top of the pile, especially within a Dutch context. A lot of people struggle with writing cover letters but using the following guidelines will steer you in the right direction every time! The following eight tips below may sound easy (or not!), but they are several strategies you can do to help your cover letter shine.

  1. Do your research! Investigate everything from the position to the people already working in the organization and their backgrounds, to the organization itself. Talk with people who work there already or who have worked there in the past. LinkedIn is a wonderful tool for this and is very popular in the Netherlands.
  2. How would you present yourself on a first date? When you start to write a cover letter, you should think of it like a first date, Marjolijn shared. This is the first time a potential employer will get to learn who you are. Your cover letter should not be your life story but should showcase the best parts of your experience.
  3. It should also be personal. You should strive to address your cover letter to a real person. To find this information, do some research on the organization and try to find out who the hiring manager is (if it is not listed in the job posting). After addressing your letter to [dear real person], include a personal line that makes you sound human. You should sound open, friendly, interested, and compliment the organization if possible.
  4. Address the organization’s goals. In the next few lines, don’t turn the reader’s attention to yourself yet! Write some lines about what they need as an organization based on what the job posting is for. Step into the hiring managers’ shoes and try to imagine what would best win them over in your cover letter.
  5. Make the connection to your experience. After addressing the organization’s needs, you can start writing about your own experience and how it will help the organization reach its goals. When talking about your experience, share your experiences in a STAR (situation, task, action, result) format to illustrate how you go about solving different problems and navigating situations.
  6. Show you’re a team player. Wrap up the letter by saying something about how you are as a co-worker. This really gives your future colleagues an idea of who you actually are and how you are to work with.
  7. Keep it to a page. Structurally, your cover letter should be no more than a page. Make sure to put the same header with your contact information on both your cover letter and CV to create a cohesive look. Lastly, close your cover letter by saying you look forward to hearing from them. And that’s it!
  8. Ask for feedback! Finally, get an extra pair of eyes to read your cover letter. Someone who hasn’t worked on your letter and can look at it with fresh eyes may be able to spot things that need some help. Turn to a friend or a family member to give your cover letter a final look-over. If you’re an unemployed international living in the Netherlands, you qualify for free coaching from one of our international coaches who can also help you. Contact us for more information!

Why is the formula above a winner? Because it makes you sound like a human. You are human, and so are your potential new coworkers and the hiring manager. Your cover letter should tell them that you have what they need.

By following the above tips and formula for your cover letter, you can help yourself rise to the top and get the interview! Most importantly, keep everything positive and you’ll be sure to come across as a great potential co-worker and fellow human being. 

Interested in attending one of our next Weekly Online Community Chats? These take place every Friday at 13:30 Central European Standard Time (CEST). Each week a different facilitator shares some valuable career-related information and you have the opportunity to network with other job seekers and career transitioning individuals through breakout groups. If you haven’t had a chance to join us yet, check out our upcoming events on our Eventbrite page!