The great cover letter

Your cover letter should be targeted and well structured. This in itself can actually be enough for you to stand out – because not many people take the time to learn to master the art of writing a targeted cover letter.

Job seeker

One objective

Your cover letter has one objective: to get the employer interested in you so that you get called in for an interview. The challenge is to ensure that your cover letter is specific, personal and focused on the future of the company – and it also needs to be tailored towards the specific job you’re applying for.


How a good cover letter makes a difference

Analyse the needs of the company

The cover letter and CV are a sales pitch to make the reader want to meet you. It doesn’t have to tell them everything about you. Just the most important things. This is why you should have a solid understanding of the job and the company before you begin typing. You do this by analysing the job ad and by calling the company and asking good questions – just as described in the ‘CV section’.


A cover letter example

The following is an example of how to structure your cover letter based on the topics covered in this article. Click on the image to see the application in full. Download it for inspiration. Key take-aways are to make clearly visible headline and sub-headlines for better readability. Make sure to hit keywords in the job ad by matching your skills and the requirements in the sections and headlines. This way you stand a better chance when the recruiters scan CV and cover letters in the first reading. This could very much be the reason your entry ends up in the “to read” pile in stead of the discard pile.

Four pieces of advice from IDA’s career counsellors 


A catchy heading

Write a heading that will quickly give them an idea of who you are, e.g. “Export engineer who specialises in market analyses” for a job as a sales engineer. The heading should typically include your academic title as well as a professional keyword that the company has mentioned they prioritise in the job ad and that you either have knowledge about or experience with. 

The all-important motivation

Your motivation for applying to the job should radiate from the pages of the cover letter. Therefore, in the first section you should write what it is about the company and/or the job that you find interesting or inspirational, and why! It shouldn’t be about why you have chosen a degree within your specific field – it should be about the company. You want the company to see that you have done your research and considered why you want to work for them. They should feel that you want to be part of their corner of the world, and they should understand why.

How long do recruiters use to read applications?

How long do company recruiters spend on your cover letter? 4 minutes or less . That is how long 58% of company recruiters spend reading your application. 40% use more than 4 minutes. 87% of company recruiters usually look at the application.


How to structure your cover letter

What will the company gain?

The largest part of the cover letter is about which of the tasks presented in the job ad you can do and how. When you analysed the job ad, you highlighted all the elements that you can do or have knowledge of. Focus on the green elements. Write specifically which tasks you can do, how you will do them, which methods and tools you expect to bring into play, and in which order you will do this.

Write how this will contribute positively to the company. Give very brief examples and results that show what you have accomplished previously or describe your ideas about how to resolve challenges. Depending on the content of the job ad, it’ll often be relevant to describe how you collaborate with customers, colleagues, and perhaps how you can communicate your knowledge to those who don’t have the same professional competences as you. 

This demonstrates that you have the necessary knowledge, experience or ideas to be successful in the job, and it makes the employer feel convinced and hopefully convinced enough to call you in for an interview.

The three most important parameters of a good cover letter 

  • 67% of companies say that relevant professional experience is most important  
  • 64% of companies say that other special competences are most important  
  • 59% of companies say that the quality of the cover letter, e.g. length, language and layout, is most important  

 Source: Excerpts from the IDA analysis “Virksomhedernes rekrutteringspraksis 2020”


What type of colleague are you?

Not only your professional competences need to match the job – your personal competences are also important. In the last section of the cover letter, give a brief description of what you’re like as a colleague – and how this is manifested.

Again, look at the job ad and remember the information you got from the telephone call. Do they need someone to work very independently or someone who has many similar tasks?  How can you show that you’re a team player? How can you demonstrate that you can think outside the box or concentrate on the same type of task without getting bored?

Describe a couple of hypothetical examples – do not refer to previous experience.  


You applied – now what?

Once you have admitted the application, you put the application and listing in the archive and wait; or do you? Yes and no.

Of course, you wait for the deadline to come and go. In the meantime, you can always get ready for a possible interview – research will benefit you regardless of whether you get a job interview this time or the next. If you do not hear from the company for a long time, you can call and ask if they have a status on how far they are in the process. But be advised that this is only in cases where they have not described the process in the post.

You might very well be highly motivated, you spent a lot of time writing a focused application, and this really is the dream job. But if you call with the sole intention of standing out among the applicants, you risk that it backfires.

If you use the call to stand out and find out more about the job and the tasks, you give the impression that you didn’t do your research before you applied. Be patient – it may take time to evaluate applications and they may not have an answer for you. If the company has specified guidelines for follow-up and process, follow them.

Once you’ve received an update, and it is does not end up with an interview, send a thank you note showing your appreciation for their time and effort. If this was a company you really want to work at, you can include a short sentence where you show your interest in any positions requiring the same skillset or department in the future and encourage them to save your application or contact details.


You didn´t get an interview? Learn from it

If you don’t get through to a job interview this time, all is not lost; far from it. Take some learnings from the rejection – don’t take it for granted that it’s part of the job search, but use the experience actively for next time.

You can read much more about this in our topic: When you have applied for the job. You can also read about how to write unsolicited applications, as a large part of the positions are hidden and in networks.

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