By Billy Dowling-Reid | Last Updated 11 September 2016
Firstly, here is a small but growing list of real life cover letters that have been anonymously donated by individuals who are working within the UK media industry. Browse these documents to get an idea of layouts and content you might want to be using in your own cover letter. Check back regularly as more cover letters are donated and published.
Cover Letter Example: Production Runner / Driver with Procam - Added 11 September 2016
Cover Letter Example: Digital Marketing Executive with a Digital Marketing Agency - Added 11 September 2016
Cover Letter Example: Editorial Assistant with a Legal Magazine - Added 6 September 2016
Cover Letter Example: Publications Assistant with Edinburgh University Press - Added 5 September 2016
Cover Letter Example: Assistant Commissioning Editor with University of Edinburgh - Added 5 September 2016
Cover Letter Example: Production Runner at IMG Productions - Added 5 September 2016
Cover Letter Example: Online Content Producer at Channel 4 - Added 5 September 2016
DONATE YOUR COVER LETTER HERE | VIEW CV EXAMPLES
GENERAL COVER LETTER ADVICE - A BRIEF INTRODUCTION:
The singular goal of your cover letter is to get the potential employer interested enough to read your CV. Your goal is to stand out from the crowd. Do this by highlighting your relevant skills, experiences and understanding of the role.
Working in television production from 2008 until 2011, I often found myself being charged with the task of sorting through cover letters from speculative, entry-level applicants. In more recent years, I have freelanced on/off in recruitment, choosing which cover letters and CVs to bin and which to forward on to clients such as NBCUniversal, Global Radio and Diagonal View. I have a good idea of what makes for a good cover letter and what does not, and felt it would be useful to share some of these insights with you.
Firstly, realise that no matter how much Googling you do, you are not going to find a perfect, one-size-fits-all cover letter template, solution or magical piece of advice. Each situation is unique.
Most of the following tips come down to basic common sense and may almost come off as patronising, but please understand that I see people making the same mistakes over and over again.
And I really do mean it when I say it, so it is worth repeating: people keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
RESEARCH AND PRE-PRODUCTION:
Here are some things to consider before you start writing your tailored-made, non-generic cover letter...
Firstly, find out who you are talking to. The one thing to take note of is whether or not the email address to which you are applying contains a name, such as firstname.lastname@example.org, or whether it is vague email@example.com. If a name is included, use it in your cover letter. "Dear Billy," is infinitely better than Dear Sir/Madam." If you are truly unable to find a name with which to address your cover letter (do a little research via the employer's website), then don't worry too much. Some companies simply do not have any one person who is dedicated to recruitment.
Get the person you're addressing's name right. My name is Billy, but I've been addressed in cover letters as Brian twice and Barry once.
Research and due diligence go a long way towards not making you look like a complete moron.
WORD COUNT AND TONE:
One of the major causes of confusion with cover letters is word count. Some companies will want you to submit cover letters consisting of just a few sentences whereas other potential employers are looking for your word count to enter into several hundred.
As a general rule, keep things as short as possible. Make each word fight to remain on the page. Whoever is charged with considering your application is most likely extremely busy and in possession of a short attention span.
There is also much confusion over the appropriate tone your cover letter should take. Formal and dry? Informal and chatty? What may seem like a concise and informative cover letter to one employer may seem all too brief and lacking in passion to another. There is no satisfying, concrete solution to this. If in doubt, it is better to keep things formal. With your cover letter, consider mirroring the tone that the recruiter has used within the job advert. Consider the company's overall corporate tone, wording and presentation of their marketing materials, websites, blogs etc. Whatever the word count and tone, ditch useless verbiage. Avoid flowery words telling us how "passionate," "vibrant" and "dynamic" you are.
Get rid of the notion that there is a set, idealised word count. It could be six sentences or it could be 600 words. It depends on the job and Google can't help you
Introduce yourself and your job title. Perhaps mention where you found the job vacancy. Make note of your availability. Ready to start immediately? Mention this. State clearly what role you are applying to and why.
Don't be generic. A lot of people mess up simply by pasting in a generic, pre-made cover letter. The job description will have specific requirements for you to adhere to. The more you draw on the job description for the material contained within your cover letter, the more likely you are to appear as a suitable candidate. Always refer back to the job advert's person specification in your cover letter. Give real, practical examples of how you meet each part of the person specification.
For all the aforementioned focus on keeping it brief, do pinpoint two or three of your greatest achievements, such as awards and other recognition, outstanding credits, content you created in your own time etc. and use these illustrative examples as your unique selling points if they are relevant to the job for which you are applying. Always, always, always try to establish a connection between yourself, your skills and the needs of the employer.
Again, be critical and ruthless with yourself. Ditch superfluous statements. Don't say things that are already assumed. Don't say you are willing to work hard. Avoid using silly words to describe yourself. It happens all too often. Words to avoid include: dynamic, visionary, excellent, confident, motivated, self-starter, enthusiastic, creative. These empty words will not further your cause. Instead of simply telling me that you are a self-starter, you need to show me that you are a self-starter, by providing evidence, such as your industry-relevant blog, a multimedia campaign you spearheaded, or something interesting and unique along those lines.
Don’t talk about yourself in the third person either. That happens sometimes.
Listing hobbies or extracurricular activities isn't necessary, even if you do volunteer with your local cat and dog shelter. Stuff like that is better suited to your CV. Keep the cover letter focused on hammering home the point that you fit the person specification like a glove.
Proofread. We all make typos. They crop up everywhere. But because we all assume that you will have checked your cover letter and CV for typos over and over again, you will be judged more harshly than under most other circumstances if you screw this up. You must spell check, but do beware that spell check doesn't cover everything. Check names. Is it Ian or Iain? Use Grammarly.
LEARN TO CRITICISE YOURSELF:
There is a lot of information out there on the Internet and most of it is either wrong, outdated, misinformed or simply not suited to media careers. Ultimately, there are no guarantees, so please use your initiative and critical thinking abilities when applying for jobs. After all, it is these core skills that will play a big part in getting you hired and having a successful career.
If you have any additional tips or any queries, feel free to leave a comment below.