Applying to an online game writing job? Better make a good first impression. Your cover letter is a brief email that accompanies your resume and introduces you to your potential employer. They're often the only thing a hiring editor ever reads, making this your one (and only) chance to get your foot in the door.
Cover letters should be short, focused, personable, and custom-written for every job you apply to. It's tempting to skip this step and just send in a resume, but doing so means missing a massive opportunity to connect with the person who wants to hire you.
Don't get lazy when it comes to the cover letter—make this part of the application process count by using the tips and example below!
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Cover letter structure
Just two rules, that's all you need: keep it simple and get to the point. Publications review dozens or hundreds of applicants for each position they open up. They don't have time to stumble over awkward intros or irrelevant information. Just jump right in, tell them what they need to hear, and do it in a way that makes them remember you.
Great cover letters start with a short greeting and introduction. Your job here is to hook the reader without resorting to dramatic or desperate tactics. Next, touch on the highlights of your career in a few sentences, mention why the job you're applying to is a great fit for you, and close with a quick thank you.
Here's the info you should include in your cover letter:
- Greet the employer
- Introduce yourself
- Tell them which job you're applying to
- Outline your experience in 2-3 sentences
- Mention why you applied to this particular job in 2-3 sentences
- Suggest next steps
- Thank them for their time
- Sign off with your contact information
The entire thing should be 3-5 paragraphs long, maybe 150-300 words. Shorter is always better, so if you can cut that length in half but still make an impact, do it.
Cover letter dos and don'ts
Unfortunately, you can't turn cover letter writing into a completely formulaic science. Every job application needs its own cover letter, which means you'll write and rewrite yours hundreds or thousands of times during your career. Here are a few tips on things you should and should NOT include in each one of those cover letters.
Do talk about your accomplishments - Numbers and achievements are fantastic ways to illustrate your worth. Did your review get quoted on the back of a game's box? Did you write 5x daily news articles without missing a deadline for 3 years? Say so!
Don't ramble - Editors don't have time to read a novel from every applicant, and if you only write a sentence or two, it's obvious you didn't take time to prepare your query. As stated above, get to the point, and don't deviate from it.
Do follow directions - Did the ad ask for a 150 word writing sample attached as a gif? Send a 150 word writing sample attached as a gif. Not 151 words, and not a png. Read the ad carefully and follow the directions.
Don't focus on negatives - A perfect example is "I've never written anything exactly like what you want, but..." Nobody cares about what you can't or haven't done, especially not employers. Including statements like this makes you look inexperienced.
Do talk about the publication - Cover letters aren't just for talking about your experience, they're also for showing that you can do your research. Mention the hiring publication in your cover letter, talk about specific reasons why you'd make a good hire. This shows you're not some random person on the internet, you're a fan of their work and a logical addition to their team.
Don't use if..then statements - Never query a game review site and say "If you're interested in hiring me, just e-mail and I'll tell you about my experience." It's easier for them to hit the delete key than do that, so why would they even bother? Make it easy to hire you by sending all the info the employer needs.
Example cover letter
Just a quick example of what your cover letter might look like.
Billy McBillson here, game writer with three years of professional experience. I'm applying to the Reviewing & Guide Writing job you recently posted on VGJobs.
I started writing about games four years ago with a personal blog. There, I created daily news posts and wrote reviews for some of my favorite releases (Borderlands, Monster Hunter 4). Shortly after I landed a gig with GameReviewsMegaSite.com where I wrote mobile game guides along with the occasional cheats article.
I really enjoy working on reviews, guides, and walkthroughs, especially in the mobile and console arenas, which I know your team covers extensively. I've followed your content for quite a while and am thrilled at the prospect of becoming a regular contributor!
My resume is attached along with links to two writing samples. I'm always open for interviews at your convenience.
Thanks for your time!