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Upskilling Tips for Cover Letters

By Amelia Bashford, Annabella Costantino, Misha Manani and Rowan Groat

Cover letters are an important part of all applications and, in such a competitive industry, every word counts! As the cliché goes, practice makes perfect. As long as you tailor each cover letter to the job you're applying for, you can’t go far wrong. See it as an opportunity to showcase your skills and express yourself in a professional, clear and cohesive manner.

Sample Structure

It’s important to ask yourself these questions before writing a cover letter: why are you interested in the company? Why are you interested in the role? Why should they choose you over other applicants? What experience do you already have that makes you different?

  • Format: At the top, you can add your name, mobile number, email address, LinkedIn account and a relevant side hustle – if you have one.

  • Opening: Address your letter to someone. If a name hasn’t been specified in the application instructions, you can ask for the name of the hiring manager on Twitter if the publisher has tweeted about the job. If you can’t find a name, 'Dear Hiring Manager' works – remember in that instance to sign it off with 'Yours faithfully'.

  • Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself, stating which role you're applying for, as well as where you found the opportunity (for example, 'as advertised on your website'). Briefly explain why you would be a great candidate, aligning it with the job description.

  • Paragraph 2: Explain a key attraction towards the company, connecting it to their mission statement and values. Employers want to make sure you are a suitable fit for their company culture. Write about a particular book on their list or, for marketing roles, a campaign you enjoyed. Make sure you match the buzzwords in their job ad to your writing – this shows you have done your research.

  • Paragraphs 3 & 4: Talk about your experience and skills, linking them to the job description. Explain what you have done and what positive impact it has had. Statistics such as 'this increased sales by 17% on the previous year' are helpful. You can split paragraphs into current and previous experience, but don’t forget to explicitly mention how this relates to the specific role.

  • Closing: Thank them for taking the time to consider your application. Mention that your CV (and portfolio for design roles) is attached and then sign off with 'Yours sincerely,' if you have the name of who you’re addressing your letter to.

Top Tips

  • Demonstrate your passion. Not only for the industry, but also the company, department, role and specific list or genre you will be working on. Evidence this with ways you have volunteered your time to certain organisations that inspire you. Don’t forget, voluntary experience is still experience (like The Publishing Post) and you can hyperlink directly to any work!

  • Keep it to one page. This is key, otherwise your application could be disregarded. One exception is when the application asks for an answer to a specific question (e.g. Penguin requests 300-word answers to supplementary questions).

  • If in doubt, use STAR: STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. If you are struggling to format your cover letter, this acronym can help to structure your experience.

  • Proofread and ask someone to check it for you. Make sure you leave time to revisit the cover letter at a later date – after you have written your first draft. Sometimes changing the font or putting the text in another colour can help you notice typos or mistakes!

  • Show personality. Publishing is more competitive than ever. Even though it’s important to stay professional, don’t be afraid to show some personality – this is how you’re going to stand out.

  • Bonus tip: Use active verbs when talking about your skills and experience. Some examples of these are “managed,” “organised,” “led,” “designed,” “created” and “initiated.”

Other Resources

Twitter: Why not create a Twitter account to connect with publishing hopefuls and professionals? You can build a network of like-minded individuals and feel support from other people in the industry.

The Publishing Hopefuls Facebook Group: Publishing hopefuls and professionals are very supportive and often share their successful cover letters with others! You can also ask for feedback on yours.

CV and Cover Letter Event: The Publishing Blog and Pub Interns have a Zoom event on Wednesday 7 July, 6:00 p.m. They will discuss how they write cover letters for different roles in publishing. Sign up for free!

YouTube: There are plenty of useful videos that can offer further advice. Ain Chiara and Ellie Pilcher, in particular, have explored cover letters. Why not check them out?

Thank you for reading our Upskilling Tips for Cover Letters we hope you found them useful. Be sure to check out our next feature, where we will be sharing upskilling tips for CVs!


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