Updated: May 2
Cover letters are a bit like ant marmite.
Yeah, ant marmite.
I'd like to say they're JUST like marmite - that some people love 'em and some people hate 'em - but let's be real with ourselves.
No-one fucking likes them.
Everybody hates them.
And so,YES they're a bit like ant marmite (because who TF would like that shit?)
But just because they're like ant marmite doesn't mean you can't make the whole process of writing one go down a bit...well, smoother. And easier. And actually write one that gets results. And gets you noticed.
This blog post will tell you how to do just that.
But first, we need to delve into the shitty cover letter
To really understand how to write a shit-hot cover letter, we first need to understand what a SHIT cover letter looks like.
Now, you've probably written one just like this.
Don't be ashamed - this was literally taken off a site that claims to give you 'killer resumes for jobs you want to do.'
Thing is, it's cookie-cutter boring and has no personality.
The guy/gal who wrote this has a lot of stuff to show for - which is great - but it's instantly forgettable.
And with 100s of other cover letters that need sifting through, this one probably looks no different from the rest.
The point I'm trying to make is that you want to get across all that info in the most creative way possible. You're a copywriter after all, so why not show it in the cover letter?
A bit like Izi Wilkowski did.
Izi and her 'fuck me, I didn't know you could write 'em like that,' cover letter
Say hello to Izi.
Member of Word Tonic (the gen-z copywriting community) and a copywriter at a snazzy London agency.
And THIS is her 'fuck me this is so good' cover letter:
The best cover letter to have landed on your laptop screen in well over a (metaphorical) century.
I know what you’re thinking. The best cover letter to have landed on my screen in over a (metaphorical) century wouldn’t have to tell me that it is the best cover letter to have landed on my screen in over a (metaphorical) century. I would just recognise that it is.
You’re completely right.
But I had to hook you in because no doubt this job has had 100s or even 1000s of applications. I resorted to a cheap tactic - making an outrageous and technically impossible claim - to grab your attention. I can only apologise.
Now I’d love to get into why this cover letter is still worth reading even if it’s not the best in a century.
I believe my writing skills can throw a great punch but I certainly have room to develop - and I’m keen to! I don’t want my skills to stagnate and I’m sure I could develop them further at X. So far I’ve been developing said skills at my internship with Word Tonic where I write web, email, and blog copy.
Alongside this I’ve been writing blogs for businesses on a freelance basis to help build their brand’s personality. Short, long, serious, chatty. In other words I have experience of taking on a chameleon-like quality to match my writing to my client’s desired tone of voice. This is a skill I’d be excited to use to help clients of X.
I have eagle eyed attention to detail and a focus on quality of output, as demonstrated in my first class honours degree in philosophy. With philosophy essays you have to write an argument that is clear, concise and accurate if you want a good mark. Spelling and grammar mistakes are noticed. Fluff is punishable by death (something the university has come under fire for recently). Thus my studies prepared me well for copywriting.
My creativity and conceptual thinking tendencies would be a huge asset for X. A blog post I wrote for Word Tonic (linked in my portfolio) actually explains the method I use to never run out of content ideas. My ideas begin as intangible concepts but I’m always able to turn them into structured and intriguing copy.
As I cover in my CV, I meet all the must haves and nice to haves (Yoda is actually a close family friend) bar one. Aha. The chink in the armour. Yet what I lack in 2+ years of experience in an agency, I make up for in enthusiasm and untapped potential.
In essence, I think I’d be a great addition to your team. I’m a young copywriter with excellent writing skills which I’d love to help both X and I excel.
Very best, Izi Wilkowski
Just take a moment to soak all that in...
FUCKKKK. IT'S. GOOD.
It reads so well, like butter.
It's ~kinda~ funny.
And it's full of Izi's personality (a bit quirky + bubbly).
Let's dissect it
First off, let's take a look at the title of Izi's cover letter.
"The best cover letter to have landed on your laptop screen in well over a (metaphorical) century," is a line that instantly hooks the reader in.
It's making a provocatively bold claim - a claim that we want to know is ~actually~ true. A claim that we want proof of.
It's called the curiosity gap - a technique that writers can use to pique interest and get readers excited about what they're going to say next.
In Izi's case, she revealed something big + bold - this isn't just any cover letter, it's the best damn cover letter that's ever landed on your screen in well over a century.
But she doesn't give too much away - she leaves it at just that. A trick that makes readers want to connect the dots, close the gaps, and find out WHY this cover letter really is the best they've ever seen or read in a century.
Now let's look at the first few opening lines...
Izi doesn't start off with a dry-as-peanut-butter-and-cinnamon-in-your-mouth line like, 'I'm writing to apply for the position of copywriter,' she starts off strong.
With a direct aim at the reader.
"I know what you're thinking."
She's addressing us directly - addressing that niggling doubt we have in our heads. Is this cover letter REALLY the best we've ever read in a century?"
Not only does this immediately defuse the tension, but it also starts the cover letter off on a conversational note. It's the kind of language you'd use in everyday life, when you're speaking to your mates.
And that right there is one of the secrets to great copywriting.
It talks to the reader, not at the reader - Izi's opening line is having a conversation with us. It's inviting us in, getting us to reflect. It's not just shouting a bunch of information at us that we already know.
And now for the part where she talks about herself - sorta
When Izi wrote this, she didn't have decades of experience (she actually only had a couple months worth) and she was honest about it.
She owned it.
And found a way to show off her achievements and knowledge in a way that made her 'years of experience,' (or lack thereof) not seem that big of a deal anyway.
She took every little bit of writing she'd done - from her degree to the bit of copy she'd done for Word Tonic and related it back to how it had made her an EVEN better writer and MOST IMPORTANTLY, how she could bring those same skills into this new position.
And now, for the finale...
Again, Izi closes with a final statement on her lack of experience - but she puts a positive spin on it and what stands out for me is her humour.
She pokes fun at herself, doesn't take herself or her lack of experience too seriously, and is letting her personality shine through in her words.
Phrases like "Yoda is actually a close friend,' and 'Aha. The chink in the armour,' all help to defuse the situation and actually go a MUCH longer way in showing how great of a writer she is than her actual experience.
To put it really simply, Izi wrote her way into the application.
She may not have had heaps of experience and copywriting gigs under her belt when she applied to this position, but she showed off her potential and writing talent in the way she crafted her words - in the way she positioned herself.
And guess what - she got the gig ;)
PS. Wanna hear how Izi learned to get crazy creative with her cover letters and nail her dream agency job? Watch the quick vid below: