by Amber Rolfe
Behind every CV is a good cover letter…
A cover letter is an essential part of almost every job application. Not only do you have to make sure it sells your skills and abilities to recruiters, you also need to do it a clear and concise manner – that ultimately persuades the reader to want to meet you.
We’ve already covered what a cover letter is, but here’s our step-by-step guide to help you get started on writing one:
Do your research
First things first, you need to do your research.
Take some time to look into the role you’re applying for and the company – and use this information to tailor your cover letter accordingly.
Here are a few key things you should find out before you start writing:
- What does the company do?
- Who are their competitors?
- Who are their target audience?
- What does the role involve?
- What are the essential skills?
Once you’ve found answers to these questions, you’ll be able to make it clear in your cover letter how your skills and abilities match up with what the employer is looking for.
Not only will doing research give you the knowledge you need to tailor your cover letter and CV to the style of the company, it also demonstrates that you’ve got a real interest in the specific role and company.
Cover letter help
How to format a cover letter
Your cover letter should be well-presented, concise, and to-the-point.
So use an easy-to-read font, and don’t get carried away with embellishments. No pictures, no Comic Sans, and definitely no word art necessary.
Aside from ensuring its written using clear paragraphs – it also should be the right length. Too long, and you’ll risk rambling (and/or boring the recruiter); but too short, and you’re unlikely to have covered everything.
Aim for half a side of A4 (or one page maximum), and you’ll be on the right track.
Five things you need to stop doing on your cover letter
How to address a cover letter
Cover letters should be addressed to the person dealing with the applications.
Usually, this will be shown somewhere in the job advert – and if not, don’t be afraid to find out. Start by visiting the company’s website to track down the name of a relevant recipient, and if you have no luck there – there’s no harm in simply calling and asking.
Not only will you be able to address your letter accurately, you’ll also demonstrate your initiative and genuine interest in the role.
If you manage to find a name – address with ‘Dear Mr Smith/Dear Ms Jones’.
And if you don’t? ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ will suffice.
How to structure a cover letter
Although there are no set rules on how your cover letter should be structured, making sure it flows well is vital if you want to impress recruiters.
Here’s a rough guideline of how your cover letter should look:
Opening the letter – Why are you getting in touch?
The opening paragraph should be short and to the point, explaining why you’re getting in touch. It’s also useful to include where you found the ad i.e. as advertised on reed.co.uk. If someone referred you, mention their name in this section.
Example: I wish to apply for the role of IT Manager, currently being advertised on reed.co.uk. Please find enclosed my CV for your consideration.
Second paragraph – Why are you suitable for the job?
Briefly describe your professional and academic qualifications that are relevant to the role and ensure you refer to each of the skills listed in the job description.
Example:As you can see from my attached CV, I have over three years’ experience in the IT Industry, and I believe the knowledge and skills built up during this time make me the perfect candidate for the role.
Third paragraph – What can you do for the company?
Now’s your opportunity to emphasise what you can do for the company. Outline your career goals (making it relevant to the position you’re applying for) and expand on pertinent points in your CV – including examples to back up your skills.
Example: In my current role as Senior Marketing Executive at Software Company X Ltd, I have been responsible for increasing incoming client enquiries for our B2B product lines by 156% in under 12 months, which helped the business increase its revenue by 55% year-on-year.
Fourth paragraph – Reiterate
Here’s where you reiterate your interest in the role and why you would be the right fit for the role. It’s also a good time to indicate you’d like to meet with the employer for an interview.
I am confident that I can bring this level of success with me to your company and help IT Company LTD build upon their reputation as one the UK’s fastest-growing software houses. With my previous experience and expertise, I believe I can start actively contributing to the business as soon as possible.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss my application further.
Closing the letter
Sign off your cover letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ (if you know the name of the hiring manager), or ‘Yours faithfully’ (if you don’t), followed by your name.
How to: Overcome common cover letter problems
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Cover Letter Examples and Writing Tips
100+ Free Cover Letter Samples Listed By Type, Format, and Job
When applying for a job, a cover letter should be sent or posted with your resume or curriculum vitae. A cover letter is a (typically) one-page document that explains to the hiring manager why you are an ideal candidate for the job. It goes beyond your resume to explain in detail how you could add value to the company.
It can be helpful to look at cover letter samples when writing your own. A sample can help you decide what to include in your letter, and how to format the letter.
This collection of free professionally written cover letter examples will help you get started. Below you'll find both hard copy and email examples, for a variety of different types of employment inquiries and job applications including general cover letters, cold contact cover letters, referral letters, customized cover letters, job promotion letters, networking outreach letters, and letters to inquire about unadvertised openings.
Cover Letter Examples and Templates
These samples, templates, and examples of different types of cover letters will give you ideas and suggestions for your letter. Read through some samples, and then customize your own letter so it shows why you should be selected for an interview.
Cover Letter Samples
Review examples of cover letters and email cover letter messages for a variety of circumstances.
Applying for a New Job
Applying for a Transfer or Promotion
Email Cover Letter Examples
Inquiry and Networking Letters
Cover Letters With a Referral
Cover Letter Formats and Templates
Review examples of professional formats, layouts, and templates to use to apply for jobs.
Examples Listed by Type of Applicant
These cover letter samples are for candidates who are applying for a specific type or level of position.
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter
Tailor each letter to the job. It takes a little extra time, but be sure to write a unique cover letter for each job. Your cover letter should be specific to the position you are applying for, relating your skills and experiences to those noted in the job posting.
Use keywords. One useful way to tailor your letter to the job is to use keywords from the job posting. Circle any words from the job posting that seem critical to the job, such as specific skills or qualifications. Try to use some of these words in your letter. This way, at a glance, the employer can see that you match the requirements of the job.
Explain how you will add value. Think of concrete ways to prove you will add value to the company. Include examples of specific accomplishments from previous jobs. For example, if you helped reduce turnover by 10% at your last company, or implemented a filing strategy that reduced file errors by 15%, include this information. Try to quantify your successes when possible to clearly demonstrate how you could add value at the company.
Look at cover letter samples. Check out a few sample cover letters before writing your own.
Samples will give you an idea of what information to include in your cover letter, and how to format the letter. However, never simply copy and paste a sample cover letter. Change the letter to fit your specific skills and experiences, and the job you are applying for.
Edit, edit, edit. Your cover letter is your first, and best, chance to sell the hiring manager on your candidacy for employment, so make sure it's perfect. Read through your letter, proofreading it for any spelling or grammar errors. Ask a friend, family member, or career counselor to read it as well. You want to make sure the letter is polished before submitting it.
What Else You Need to Know:How to Write a Cover Letter in 5 Easy Steps