Win that interview: 10 steps to creating a combat-ready cover letter

Posted by | March 1, 2018 | CVs and cover letters, Job hunters, Job interviews, Looking for work


Cover letters, eh? I’ve written three this week (so far) and it’s starting to feel like going into battle. So, how can we ensure our hard work will actually pay off and our cover letters will blow the enemy’s  future employer’s ships out of the water? It’s time to get combat ready! Here are ten steps to creating a killer cover letter. You’ll be thinking like a weapon of mass destruction job-seeking champion in no time!


#1. Identify your target

He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victoriousSun Tzu, The Art of War

Always address your cover letter to a person. A real person. The right person. No name on the job advertisement? I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to cold-call your wannabe workplace and find out. It shows you’re proactive AND gets your foot in the door. Bingo.


#2. Research the enemy

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster Sun Tzu, The Art of War

As Sun Tzu says, it’s wise to learn as much as you can about your target. Job advertisement? Tick! Job description? Tick!  Read the entire website and all social media channels? Do it! Find out their communication style and then copy their tone in your cover letter, making it sound like YOU ALREADY WORK FOR THEM. Ka-ching!


#3. Make your first attack a good one

Quickness is the essence of the war Sun Tzu, The Art of War

DON’T start with: “I’d like to apply for the role of Email Marketing Manager for The Amazing Company Ltd. as advertised on Do Good Jobs. 

DO start with:  “I’m a skilled digital marketer looking to commit to a business with heart. I believe I’m a perfect fit for the role of Email Marketing Manager for The Amazing Company Ltd. as advertised on Do Good Jobs.”

Make your first attack a good one. Leave them for dead.


#4. Don’t fight the same battle twice

By reinforcing every part, they weaken every part.Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It IS a good idea to highlight relevant skills and experience, but repeating your CV? Bad move, soldier. Never, NEVER regurgitate your entire CV in your cover letter… Unless you want to appear useless AND boring, that is. 


#5. Attack intelligently

Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purposeSun Tzu, The Art of War

If you’ve done the research, you’ll know exactly what your target wants. So show them! Your cover letter and CV combined should tick all their boxes. Don’t leave an enemy target standing.


#6. Work on your defence

Every battle is won before it is foughtSun Tzu, The Art of War

Your cover letter is the perfect place to answer any questions the person reading your CV might have. Have weird-looking gaps between jobs? Explain them! Missing a needed skill?* Tell them how you’re taking that online course in project management. Never worked in Aotearoa before? Explain what kind of visa you have, and when it ends. Cover all those missing links. 

*But never apologise for skills you don’t have. Rookie mistake!


#7. Target what they love

Begin by seizing something which your opponent holds dear; then they will be amenable to your will. Sun Tzu, The Art of War

If you’re looking for a Do Good Job, then it’s likely that your target holds their values very dear. Use the research you’ve garnered and outline how your values align with theirs.


#8. Stay stealthy

Conceal your dispositions, and your condition will remain secret, which leads to victory;  show your dispositions, and your condition will become patent, which leads to defeat. Sun Tzu, The Art of War

I love workplaces where staff are encouraged to be your whole self. But it’s wise to move stealthily on this one: getting to know each other will always take time. Don’t get too weird in your cover letter. Stay professional. 


#9. Show your commitment 

When your army has crossed the border, you should burn your boats and bridges, in order to make it clear to everybody that you have no hankering after home.Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Unless it’s a temporary, fixed term or contract role, employers will probably want you to stick around for a few years. Appease their fears by showing them your commitment to the role. This is especially important if you’re a millennial. We have a reputation for being as flaky as sausage rolls!


#10. End the war to win the war

There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare. Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Waffles are great. Waffling? Not so much. Better to be short and strong, like espresso. New to Aotearoa? Please don’t write that you will ring next week to follow up. Kiwis don’t like this. Instead, end your war with class. Thank your target for the opportunity and let them know you’re looking forward to hearing from them. Then send that Trojan horse in with a smile. 


Feeling armed and ready to return to the job application front? Me too! As Sun Tzu says, “Never venture, never win.” Do you have tips for writing an amazing cover letter? Share them in a comment below. 

Header image by Matheus Ferrero via Unsplash

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