How to write a great cover letter

Cover letters – an often annoying but crucial part of the job search. We'll talk about common pitfalls and more importantly, how to make a convincing cover letter that will increase your odds of landing an offer.

Shri Kolanukuduru Michael Yan
Published: (Updated: ) - 3 min read

Photo by Corinne Kutz / Unsplash

A cover letter is an important component of your application. It introduces you to prospective employers and gives you an opportunity to detail the ways you can benefit a company. If you're new to the business world, your cover letter may expand on the connections between the job opening and your background and experiences. Keep reading for our tips on how to craft a killer cover letter!

Want an example? Here's a link to an actual cover letter written by Michael Yan (CEO of Simplify) when he was applying to internships!

What to write in a cover letter

To structure the cover letter, imagine you're being asked these two questions and use one paragraph to answer each. Your cover letter should be brief (<1 page).

1 - What excites you about company X?

The best way to stand out is to demonstrate that you have put time and thought into understanding the company.

There are simple things you can do that will instantly elevate your impression on a hiring manager over candidates who haven't put additional effort in:

  • Refer to an article/blog which talks about the company
  • Talk about how you've tried the product and what you like
  • Write why you like the mission, or show an understanding of the problem being solved.

Once you've written this paragraph, ask yourself "If I replaced company X with another company, for example a competitor, would it still make sense?". If the answer is yes, you probably need to add more insight and detail. The goal is to avoid seeming generic.

We often receive cover letters with sentences like "I want to join Simplify as you are changing recruiting" and this isn't enough insight to help you stand out. In fact, sometimes it can work against you, as you've made the effort to write a cover letter but haven't taken the time to write in-depth!

2 - Why do you want this role?

Your resume tells the hiring manager about your previous experience, but it doesn't say anything about your motivations. We believe a cover letter is a great opportunity to tell more of your story.

Here are some example questions that you may want to answer in this paragraph:

  1. What is it about this role that you really like? (Look carefully at the job description and the areas that excite you)
  2. If you're applying for a more senior position, why is now the right time?
  3. If you're moving from a corporate to a startup, why are you confident that a fast-growth environment is right for you?
  4. If you're making a career shift (e.g. strategy to marketing), what is your reasoning? What have you done to make yourself confident this is the right move for you?
  5. What do you want to achieve in your next role?
  6. Where do you want to be in 3-5 years and how will this position help you?
  7. What's important in your next role?

You don't need to tell your whole story (e.g. why you decided to start your career as a software engineer). Ideally you'll find a few interesting areas where the hiring manager will think "yes, that's exactly what we need!" and this will elevate you above other candidates.

Don't make your cover letter an extension of your resume

When reading cover letters, we make this comment about 50% of the time. A lot of candidates use a cover letter to write their resume in more detail. Either by writing more qualifications, including deeper detail about projects, or repeating selling-points from the resume.

In our experience, a hiring manager will use the resume to judge your experience and suitability. They're looking to the cover letter to find something else to excite them. We believe the advice from above (explaining your excitement about the company and why you want the position) will help you stand out more.

If you find yourself using a cover letter to write more detail, we recommend going back to your resume and make edits to include those details in a concise way.

Next Steps

The goal of being armed with a strong cover letter and resume is to be able to secure a top-tier internship. However, it's important to note that however strong your resume and cover letter might be, recruiters have to make tough choices, and you should not hedge all your bets on one or two roles. Rather, apply to more roles to give yourself the best chance to reap the rewards of your work! Crucially, you should be applying to roles that reflect the skills and values detailed in your cover letter.

Looking for roles that suit you? Take Simplify's 30-second job matching quiz and get recommended jobs that uniquely fit your interests and experiences

Best of luck applying!