How to Write a Cover Letter
You’ve spotted the ad for the job of your dreams. You’ve put a lot of thought into your application. You’ve adapted your CV to make sure that the experience and qualities your prospective new employer are front and centre. Now you need to ensure that your CV is accompanied by a cover letter that makes you shine. Your cover letter will form the recruiter’s first impression of you… And you’ll never get a second chance to make one of those!
No matter what kind of job you’re applying for, it’s virtually always a good idea to include a cover letter. A cover letter provides a snapshot of who you are to employers. Not only does it need to ensure that it sells your experience and abilities to employers, it also needs to be written in a clear, concise and attention grabbing manner. It should make your potential new employer enthusiastic about meeting you.
It’s important to note that employers and recruiters look at dozens and dozens of cover letters every single day. It’s essential to get yours right if you want to make a great first impression.That’s why we’ve compiled this step-by-step guide to take the guesswork out of writing the ultimate cover letter...
Do your homework!
The more you know about the company you’re applying to, the better able you’ll be to write a cover letter that appeals their sensibilities. A great cover letter is tailored not only to the job description and person specification of the vacancy but to the values and ideals behind the business.
Needless to say, research is the key to this. Take some time to look closely at the job you’re applying for and the company that’s posting the job listing. It’s this information that will help you to strike the right chord with your new employer.
Before you put pen to paper (literally or digitally) make sure you know as much as possible about the following;
- What does the company do?
- How long have they been doing it?
- Who are their competitors, and what makes your new employer different to them?
- What kind of target market do they service?
- What principles or ideals do they value?
- What will the job involve?
- What are the essential skills?
Once you’re able to answer these questions, it’s much easier to communicate in your cover letter how your skills and abilities match up with what they’re looking for.
Not only will this research give you the knowledge you need perfectly match the company you’re applying to, it also demonstrates interest in their business and the role.
Formatting your cover letter
Your new employer’s time is precious and they may roll their eyes if they see a long and wordy cover letter. Try to keep it well-presented, concise, and to-the-point.
Be sure to use a no-nonsense, easy-to-read font, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that embellishments will make all the difference. You don’t need pictures. You certainly don’t need word art, and you don’t need an attention-grabbing font.
Proof read your cover letter several times to make sure you haven’t rambled or repeated yourself. Ideally your cover letter should be between half a side and (maximum) a full side of A4 paper.
You should address your cover letter to whoever is dealing with the applications. Dear Sir / madam will suffice but if you address the recruiter by name this shows that you’ve paid close attention to the job posting.
Usually, the recruiter’s name is shown somewhere in the job advert. But if it’s not, don’t be afraid to give the company a call and find out. Alternatively, you can take a look at the company’s website and try to find out who’s in charge of recruitment.
Structuring your cover letter
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to structuring your cover letter. However, it’;s a good idea to apply some structure to keep it concise and ensure that your writing has a nice flow.
Here’s a rough guide which will hopefully be useful to you;
Paragraph 1- Opening strong
Keep your opening paragraph short and to the point while engaging the reader’s interest.
Why are you getting in touch? What made this job ad stand out? Where did you see the post advertised? Did someone refer you to the position? If so, mention them by name.
For example: I’m currently writing to apply for the role of Customer Service Manager, currently advertised on JustLondonJobs.com. Please find enclosed my CV for your consideration.
Paragraph 2– Why you?
In the next paragraph, describe (in brief) your professional and academic skills and achievements and how they make you well suited to the unique demands of the role. Be sure to match these to the skills listed in the job description.
For example: As my CV demonstrates, I have over five years’ experience in customer service, and in this time I have built up a range of skills and experience which I believe make me the perfect candidate for the position.
Paragraph 3 – What will you bring to the company?
Having established what you can do for the job, now it’s your opportunity to let them know what you can do for the business. Employers like to know that candidates have a long term strategy in mind and can continue to help their businesses as they grow in their careers. Outline your personal career goals and how the position you’re applying for will help you to achieve them. Use examples from your CV of experiences you’ve had and skills you’ve learned that will benefit the company.
For example: In my current position as Customer Service Representative at GenericCorp, I have been responsible for increasing incoming customer by over 150% over the last 12 months, helping the business to increase its revenue by 20% over the previous year.
Paragraph 4- Summing up
Now’s a good time to briefly you reiterate why you’re interested in a role and why you’re an ideal candidate. It’s also a good time to tell them how much you’re looking forward to meeting them at an interview.
For example: I am confident that I can bring the same level I’ve encountered in my previous positions to this role, and help to build on your company’s already impressive reputation. My skills, experience and expertise will allow me to make a positive contribution and help to further your corporate ethos.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss my application further at interview.
Now all that remains is to sign off your cover letter appropriately. Use ‘Yours sincerely’ if your letter is addressed to a specific person, or ‘Yours faithfully’ if it’s not, followed by your signature and printed name.
Next up: How to Write a CV