Writing a cover letter is an essential part of the job application process. It’s a tailored statement which highlights your skills and experience, showing a prospective employer what you can bring to a role. This article explains how to write a cover letter that will get your application noticed.
What is a cover letter?
It’s the file that’s submitted alongside your CV, which provides an opportunity for you to highlight your enthusiasm and suitability for a role. Preparing a well-written cover letter is one of the most effective ways to make your job application stand out to a hiring manager.
How long should a cover letter be?
A cover letter should be concise and no more than 1-2 pages in length. A good cover letter will be well researched and tailored specifically to the job and organisation to which you are applying.
Cover letter format and structure
Follow our six steps for producing a well-structured cover letter.
1. Address and salutation
Aim to address your cover letter to a named contact; this should either be the hiring manager or recruiter. If it isn’t possible to identify a named contact, consider starting your letter with ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ instead.
This is your reason for writing, mention which position you are applying for as well as the organisation and department. Explain how you heard about the opportunity and briefly introduce yourself in a professional context to capture the reader’s attention.
3. Why are you the best person for the job?
This section is all about the relevant skills and experience that you have to offer an employer. Be sure to check the job specification carefully and use examples to demonstrate how you meet each of the criteria and what you can bring to the role. Where possible, evidence your claims with links out to examples of your work and achievements.
4. Demonstrate your company knowledge
Researching the organisation, including its culture and services, allows you to tailor your application and show that your interest in the opportunity is genuine. Use this section to demonstrate your understanding and discuss how you can apply your skills and experience to support the company’s strategy.
5. Bring your letter to a conclusion
Now it’s time to reiterate your interest in the position and conclude your letter. It’s a good idea to mention your availability for an interview at this stage to make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to progress your application.
6. Sign off
Always use a formal sign off to close your letter. If you know the contact, we recommend signing off with ‘yours sincerely’, if you don’t know the recipient, please use ‘yours faithfully’ instead. If your cover letter is copied into the body of an email, then ‘Kind regards’ is also acceptable.
Make your cover letter stand out
Now that we have discussed the most effective way to structure your cover letter, let’s look at three top tips for making your letter stand out to an employer.
1. Recognise the differences between your CV and cover letter
While a CV provides a summary of your employment history, a cover letter provides an opportunity to highlight specific skills and experiences which are relevant to the role. It’s a chance to put more context behind your application and to show an employer why you should be progressed to interview stage.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to mention your unique selling points, tell your story and share your professional values. A good cover letter will work alongside your CV to provide more depth and expand on what your experience enables you to bring to a role and organisation.
While it’s acceptable to reuse certain sentences or points from previous cover letters, it’s important to write a fresh one for every position you apply for.
2. Tone, language and formatting
Always use a positive, personable and professional tone to convey your enthusiasm and suitability for a role. Use clear and concise language throughout your letter; avoid jargon and vague statements. Where possible, reinforce your points with evidence to demonstrate your transferable skills and experience.
In addition to this, ensure that your letter is well presented and uses a standard font and layout. As well as making your letter easier to read across different devices, good formatting conveys professionalism and makes a positive first impression. Where possible, ensure that your text is left aligned and uses a consistent style for headings and punctuation, with line spaces between paragraphs.
Finally, check your spelling and grammar carefully; a mistake-free cover letter will showcase your written communication skills and excellent attention to detail.
3. Common cover letter mistakes and how to avoid them
There are some common mistakes to watch out for when writing a cover letter. The first one to be aware of is the level of company research undertaken. A lack of research can make it difficult to form concise points in your letter and it may even be perceived as laziness. Always research a company thoroughly for the best results. Making an extra effort at this stage will also be advantageous if you are invited to attend an interview.
A second common mistake to avoid is focusing on what the company can do for you, rather than demonstrating how your skills and experience meet the job specification and can be applied to support the company. While it’s a good idea to provide more context around your career to date and mid-term aspirations, ensure that the focus is on meeting the needs of the employer and solving the problem that the position has been created to address.
Finally, while this one might sound obvious, it’s important to read the application instructions carefully before starting your cover letter. Some employers will request information on specific skills in order to assess your suitability for a role. For the best results, ensure that your cover letter meets the brief and addresses the criteria set out by an employer.
Last updated on 10 May 2021Share this article