How to Write An Awesome Cover Letter - Tip #1

How to Write An Awesome Cover Letter - Tip #1

"Surely I don't need a cover letter - my resume will speak for itself" - Data Science Job Applicant

You've been putting this bit off for weeks. You thought you'd get the resume right and then the cover letter would come naturally, BUT… after several attempts sitting down to try to write it, you're starting to feel panic creeping over you. This is not as easy as you thought. You've browsed multiple examples online and are feeling overwhelmed … Maybe you can get away without it? No-one is going to read it, are they? Your resume is now awesome anyway, right, so who needs a cover letter?

"A good cover letter really helps bring a candidate to life; I read it and can understand how they would fit in the team and deliver impact on Day 1; a bad cover letter, well…" - Data Science Hiring Manager

Well, sadly, you do need a cover letter - and a well-written, coherent one at that! It is your chance to put more color and context around your story and why you're the perfect candidate. But you don't have to let the idea of writing one crush you … deep breath, and here we go with our 7 Steps to an Awesome Cover Letter! And not only tips as in ''what' to do, we'll also help you with the 'how' :) So, here's Tip #1…

1. Tailor Your Cover Letter for each application

This may seem like a lot of work, but generic cover letters are very easy to detect and nothing is a bigger turn-off to a Hiring Manager. Make sure you're clear about why each company and role are exciting to you; and what you can offer that specific job..

OK … How?

Read through the job description - what is it about the role that most excites you? Is it the company's product or mission; the work the Data Science team are doing; an example project you heard about while networking with the team; how important Data Science is to the company; the autonomy the Data Science team has to set its own direction etc.? Make sure you tell the Hiring Manager in the first paragraph why you're excited about their specific company and role - and make it something that you could only say about them (not a generic statement that could be copy/pasted to either a competitor or another job you are applying to).

And, more than just what excites you - why does it excite you? One trick here to really get to a specific level of answer is to ask yourself the "5 whys", so… you've identified what excites you… why is that? … and why is that important to you? … and why is that? … etc. You won't necessarily have to go all the way to 5 whys, but doing this should really help you showcase more about yourself and your understanding of the company than a vanilla statement that could apply to a whole host of applications.

Now, let's not only look at what's on the job description - let's think more broadly … how is this company using Data Science? Or, if you don't know, think about how they could be using it - what data might they have? How could they be using this to either improve their product features, increase revenues, lower costs etc. Basically, think about an objective function (i.e., something the company would be striving to do); think about what data they should have; then put the 2 together to think about projects you could do to help them achieve their goals … And, again, communicate this in the first paragraph - you want the reader to know as soon as possible why you're excited about their specific company and role; and that you understand enough / have thought about it enough to recognize how you could have impact. If you can demonstrate both of these, your cover letter is off to a great start!

How to take action now!

Look at the job description for the next application you were going to submit (or, if you're not there yet, just open up, search for Data Scientist, and pick a job from the front page that seems interesting to you). Read it through a couple of times and then

  1. Write down 3 things that excite you about the role
  2. Pick one of them
  3. For that one, write down why it excites you
  4. And then, why that is important / why you wrote it
  5. And then, why that is important / why you wrote it
  6. And then, why that is important / why you wrote it
  7. And then, why that is important / why you wrote it
  8. Use the above to craft a sentence to include in the opening paragraph of your cover letter. For example: "I am especially excited about this position given [what excites you] since [why it excites you]"

That's a good start - look out for our next post on how else to nail the cover letter :)

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