Cover letter writing tips

Why write a cover letter

Job applications can be accompanied by a positive, well-written cover letter that demonstrates your interest in the role and the ways in which your skills, experience and characteristics make you the ‘best fit’ for the job. It’s a great opportunity to make your application stand out from the crowd.

What to include

A cover letter should look like a formal business letter and should include:

  • The date
  • The employer’s name and address – cover letters should be addressed to a specific person if possible, rather than “To whom it may concern” or similar
  • Where you heard about the job and why you’re interested in the position
  • A brief outline of your key skills and experience, with examples showing how you match the employer’s needs
  • A request for consideration (usually an interview)
  • An expression of appreciation, such as “Thank you for taking the time to consider my application”
  • A cover letter shouldn’t be too long – usually just a page – so it’s important not to include lots of irrelevant information. Make the most of the little space you have by keeping language simple and using the first-person, active voice to emphasize positive attributes and achievements, i.e.“I achieved”, “I successfully completed” etc.

Making the cover letter match the job

A cover letter should be different for every job application since it needs to match each new role. Show how you meet the employer’s needs by using concrete examples from your previous experiences. Facts and figures are particularly useful as they’ll jump out at prospective employers, i.e. “I achieved a rate of 70% sales from all approaches; 10% above the company average”. Another good way to make sure that your cover letter matches the role is to recycle key words and phrases from the job description.

Formatting and layout

A cover letter should look like a standard formal letter with the applicant’s details in the top right-hand corner of the page, the date below this on the left-hand side and the employer’s details underneath the date.

The letter should be typed and printed on white paper. Aim to keep it to one A4 page with the font no smaller than 10 point so that it’s easy to read.

Hints and Tips

  • Remember to proofread your letter to check there are no spelling or grammar mistakes and, if possible, ask a friend or family member to check it as well.
  • Always check that you haven’t left the name of the last employer you contacted in the letter – it’s a more common mistake than you might think.
  • Keep a copy of the cover letter so that you can review what you wrote before an interview.

Key points

  • A cover letter can accompany your resume or job application. It’s an opportunity to show the employer how you meet their staffing needs.
  • Match your cover letter to the job description, highlighting the skills and experience that make you perfect for the job and using examples where possible
  • Make your cover letter easy to read and double-check it for typos and other mistakes before submitting.

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