This is a question people ask me often, so here’s my advice. Especially since a couple of weeks ago I told you how to quit *insert cheesy grin here*.

Is it needed?

Before you start stressing over the cover letter, you need to find out if one is actually needed. If the job ad specifically says, Submit your CV with cover letter here, then yes, you need one. If it doesn’t, you might be able to assume they’re not interested in cover letters.

You are also allowed to actually call a human and ask them.

‘Hi Donna, my name is Shelly Davies. I’m just wondering if a cover letter is needed with my application for the unicorn trainer position? Thank you! Is there anything else you think I should know? Awesome. You have a great day.’

Some recruiters will put A LOT of weight on the cover letter – maybe even more than the CV. Others never even read that cover letter you spent three hours writing and ran past a test audience of 23 poor friends.

So, find out if it’s needed. If not, your cover letter can say exactly:

Hi there

Please find attached my CV in application for the position of Unicorn Trainer.



What does it need to accomplish for you?

If you’ve established that a cover letter is needed, you need to decide what you want it to do for you.

A cover letter can’t be everything. Your CV has a job and the cover letter has a job. Make sure you’re clear on which is doing what.  Don’t make your cover letter a differently formatted CV.

Does it need to make you stand out? Does it need to reinforce to them that you meet all their criteria? Does it need to show personality? Does it need to show that you have added value above what they’re looking for? Decide which of those is your focus before you start writing.  It can’t do all of those things!

The recruiter is BUSY

They will go through those cover letters with military precision and they will cull HARD. If you write a novel, you’re effectively creating more work for that recruiter.

Don’t make them work. Make it easy for them.

How? Use headings. Use bullets. Be concise. They will be skim reading. Paragraphs, stories, narratives, novels – these things are hard to skim read.

Professional is PERSONAL

Most of us think that to sound professional we need to use a formal voice. That’s utter bullshit.

To sound professional, show who you are confidently and appropriately. Speak to your reader. Use 1st and 2nd person. It’s a conversation. The more formal the voice you use, the colder and more clinical and more bland the letter is.

Bland doesn’t get you a job.


Basically? Errors are a turn-off. Use Grammarly. Use the Hemingway Editor. Use your Great Aunt. But don’t send a cover letter with errors. At the very least, read it out loud.

Think visual

Use a simple, clean, modern sans serif font. Make sure there’s enough line spacing and clear paragraph breaks. All of these things help your busy busy reader to skim read and get a good, strong, confident, professional opinion of you.

Now go. Be a unicorn trainer!