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5 Tips For A Great English Cover Letter

Alex Jeskanen
Business English Instructor, Deliberate English Community

You're sitting at your computer, scrolling through job listings, and spot your dream job! 

Great company, excellent salary, great benefits… AND you meet all of the qualifications!

You open up an application, fill in the forms, and upload your resume. But just before you can hit submit, the most terrible, dreadful, horrifying pop-up appears…

"Please submit an English cover letter!"

No need to worry. Let's look at the cover letter I used to get this job so you can write one that gets you your next job!

This is the English Cover Letter I used to get my job

Having spent the last nearly two years working online, I have learned that the most beneficial methods of online tutoring or education depend on the connection between the student and the instructor.

Whether I am engaging with a group of young students from elementary school through high school or working one-on-one with adults, I am confident in my ability to connect with students in a personable way.

I've been fortunate to experience a range of teaching circumstances and feel I would be well suited to work with Deliberate English LLC.

I am well organized, can manage a variety of roles, and focus on doing whatever is best for my students.

Joining a program that is as innovative as this is exciting because I want to challenge the current methods of online education and show society that it is a valid method of language learning.

I look forward to hearing from you and the chance to pick your brain about the program your company has developed for student engagement.

Let's see how this English cover letter can help you write one that gets you your next job.

Tip 1: Before you write anything, get your resume out

You need to write your cover letter as a supplement (something that adds more info) to your resume.

This is your chance to add details you couldn't explain in your resume, get a little more personal, and highlight the most relevant things you want the potential employer to know about you.

Tip 2: Look at the position requirements

What is the company looking for in a candidate? You want to address most of the qualification requirements in your cover letter.

Let's look at the requirements Kevin put in his job listing for Deliberate English:

The ideal candidate:

  • Has taught ESL students in the past
  • Has learned a foreign language (ideally Spanish)
  • Is good with technology
  • Can work as an independent contractor and send invoices

With those requirements in mind, let's look at my introduction paragraph again and see how I applied tips 1 and 2.

I jumped right into addressing some of Kevin's requirements by explaining my past work experience using the following sentence:

Having spent the last nearly two years working online, I have learned that the most beneficial methods of online tutoring or education depend on the connection between the student and the instructor.

Having done (something), I have learned (something) is a great way to introduce skills

This sentence structure, "Having done (something), I have learned (something)," is a formal way to introduce the skills or insight you gained while working for some time.

Let's look at a few examples. How would you complete this sentence? You can see a clue at the top of the screen.

Having taken computer science courses for 3 years, I have learned a variety of practical technical skills that would be beneficial to this position.

How does this structure fit in this example?

Having worked abroad for 6 months, I have learned to appreciate cultural differences when working with international teams.

💡 Important Grammar Tip: If you want to use a verb after "I have learned," it needs to be in the infinitive form with "to."

Thinking back at the job requirements compared to my cover letter, notice that I didn't specifically say ESL students in the paragraph.

I indicated this in my resume under my work experience section here:

Instead of repeating information from my resume, I used this "whether…or…" sentence to provide further detail regarding the kinds of students I have worked with.

Whether... Or... is perfect for showing a range of experiences

This sentence structure is helpful to show a range of skills or experiences.

How can you use it here?

Whether I am working in the office or working remotely from home, I am always focused on deadlines and schedules.

💡 Important Grammar Tip: For your range of skills or experiences, use "be + ing verbs" to show that these are skills that you have now and will have in the future. If we use past tense here, it would sound like you used to have these skills, but now (for some reason), you don't.

How would you use this structure to tell your potential employer the following?

  1. I can manage large teams of up to 100 people
  2. I can work as support staff for someone else
  3. I am always enthusiastic to get the best results for my clients

Whether I am managing large teams of up to 100 people or working as support staff for someone else, I am always enthusiastic to get the best results for the clients.

Alright, back to those requirements. How did I tell Kevin about my ability to work as an independent contractor or my technology skills?

I didn't specifically use "independent contractor" or "technology." 

Having spent the last nearly two years working online, I have learned that the most beneficial methods of online tutoring or education depend on the connection between the student and the instructor.

Whether I am engaging with a group of young students from elementary school through high school or working one-on-one with adults, I am confident in my ability to connect with students in a personable way.

But I mentioned "online" and "one-on-one with adults" to reference my resume, where I list my employment as an independent contractor online using various technology-based skills.

Now, are there any qualifications still missing?

That's right! I mentioned absolutely nothing about foreign language skills.

Why did I leave this out? Well, you don't need to put everything from your resume into your cover letter. They are complementing each other, not copying each other.

I explained my German and Japanese language skills in my resume, so I didn't include them here. Additionally, I don't speak Spanish. But I still applied for this position.

🟢 Even if you don't fit all of the requirements, you can still apply for the job!

For example, even if you don't feel your English is ready yet, it's still worth applying. Worst case, you don't get the job. But you got to practice interviewing, which will help you in your next interview!

Now…if I had wanted to mention my language skills, even though I didn't meet the requirement exactly, how could I do that?

Mini tip 1: Avoid using negative language in your English cover letter

Specifically, you should try to avoid words like not, don't, none, no, etc.

Let's revisit that "having done something…, I have learned something" structure again, with a little twist.

Use the structure "Having done (something), I can do (something)" to talk about negatives.

Rather than saying, "I don't speak Spanish, but I speak German and Japanese," saying something like this would be a better alternative:

Having studied both German and Japanese for many years, I can empathize with the challenges of learning a foreign language.

By switching "I have learned (something)" with "I can do (something)," we can talk about the skills we will be able to do soon based on our previous experiences.

How would you change this negative statement into a positive one?

I haven't worked as an independent contractor before, but I have worked in a lot of other positions.

Having worked in a lot of other positions, I can learn the responsibilities of an independent contractor easily.

Get rid of the negatives and put a positive spin on things! You have other skills that can make up for any requirements you don't perfectly match.

Tip Number 3: Talk about why they should hire you. Why are you special?

In my second paragraph, can you find where I said something similar to "you should hire me"?

I've been fortunate to experience a range of teaching circumstances and feel I would be well suited to work with Deliberate English LLC.

Rather than saying "you should hire me because…," which is a bit pushy or even rude, it is better to use expressions like "to be well suited (for something/to do something)."

💡 Important Grammar Tip: When using "to be well suited for," the phrase must be followed by a noun, and when using "to be well suited to," it must be followed by a verb.

- I would be well suited for this position at Deliberate English LLC.
- I would be well suited to work with Deliberate English LLC.

We can also say "to be a good fit for (something)" or "my skills align with (something)" to mean the same thing.

Looking at my second paragraph again, can you find my list of skills?

I am well organized, can manage a variety of roles, and focus on doing whatever is best for my students.

Well organized, can manage a variety of roles, focus on doing whatever is best…

🟢 When making a list of skills, keep it to 3 things. You want to be concise (short and to the point) when explaining anything in your cover letter.

Sometimes, less is more. Your cover letter will be better if you don't add too much information.

For example, Kevin had this to say about hiring for this position:

"Very important. I had to look at over 500 applications when hiring you and Ingrid. If I see a 2000-word cover letter, there's a good chance I'm not reading it."

Think of the expression "it's quality over quantity." You don't need every single little detail about every single job you have ever done in your entire life. 

You want only the best, and most useful information included.

Keep in mind: the "why you should hire me" section is less about you and more about what the employer gets by hiring you.

So, what exactly did my list of skills mean to the employer? Let's review the paragraph once more with a bit of feedback from Kevin!

When I told Kevin I had a range of teaching experiences, it shows him he gets someone who can handle a wide range of tasks.

When I told him I am organized, it tells the manager they won't have to spend a lot of time organizing for you or micro-managing you.

When I said I had a variety of roles, it tells the employer I am open to and can handle different things such as teaching, making videos, or creating content.

Finally, when I say I focus on doing whatever is best for my students, it shows the employer I am willing to listen to feedback and try new things.

Tip Number 4: Keep your overall tone friendly but professional. 

How can you do that? Let's look at the 3rd paragraph of my cover letter.

I look forward to hearing from you and the chance to pick your brain about the program your company has developed for student engagement.

An easy way to keep your tone friendly is to write like you are speaking to the employer directly

Using the active voice with words like I, you, or we will help you sound friendly and personable.

Additionally, using one or two idioms, for example, "to pick your brain," meaning to "ask questions," is a fun way to make the tone feel more relaxed and friendly. 

Basically, write like you would speak at work (minus filler words and pauses).

Tip 5: Finish by requesting a follow-up with the employer

Let's look at paragraph three one more time:

I look forward to hearing from you and the chance to pick your brain about the program your company has developed for student engagement.

This final sentence was actually a sneaky or clever way to let the employer know that I am confident they will contact me for an interview.

When they do, I have things relevant to the position or the company that I want to discuss with them already in mind.

You can include some questions for the employer in your cover letter, but there is a risk to asking basic questions that they might feel you should already know the answer to before applying.

🟢 To minimize the risk of asking a bad question, implying a discussion topic is a better option.

Whew, we have covered quite a lot about cover letters today. Before we wrap up, I want you to keep the following points in mind:

5 tips for better English cover letters

  1. Get your resume out and write your cover letter to supplement your resume.
  2. Keep the job listing requirements in mind and address most of them in your letter. Even if you don't meet all the qualifications, apply anyway! Just be sure to avoid using negative language!
  3. Talk about why they should hire you by listing your skills and explaining what benefits they gain from selecting you for the position… but keep it short and sweet!
  4. Keep your tone friendly but professional!
  5. And finally, request a follow-up with the employer to seal the deal!
😀 Want Kevin and I to review your English cover letter? Join us in the Deliberate English Community, where you can get personalized feedback on your English speaking, writing, listening, and pronunciation every day!

See you in the community!

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