A cover letter is a crucial part of almost every job application. Once a CV is perfected, it rarely needs amending, whereas a cover letter should be rewritten and tailored to specific job requirements each time you apply. The cover letter is arguably the first part of a job application a potential employer will see, so it’s your first chance to make a lasting, memorable impression. To help you put your best foot forward and create a well-written cover letter, we’ve put together a few tips and tricks you can use to write an engaging cover letter that will stand out to employers.
An important factor to remember that regularly goes amiss – is that a cover letter has to be unique for every individual job application. Even if both jobs are in a similar field, each letter should be specifically tailored to the job descriptions and professional abilities an employer is looking for. Start writing your cover letter by conducting some initial research about the company and the role you’re wanting to apply for –
- What does the company specialise in?
- Who are their main competitors?
- What does the role you’re applying for typically involve?
- What skills are required?
This will show the employer that you fully understand the role requirements and what the job entails, as well as showing that your skill set would be valuable to the company. For example, if you have knowledge of the companies mission statement and goals, you can weave these into your own goals – which shows the employer that you’re likely to be a great fit.
There is no need to write a biography when it comes to your cover letter, keeping it short and simplistic is the best way to keep prospective employers engaged. Your cover letter is what employers will read over before moving on to your CV, so there is no need to be re-writing everything twice over. Make sure you keep to the facts, a little about your interests and most importantly, don’t ramble!
Your cover letter enables you to expand further on the points detailed in your CV for those experiences or skills that need further explanation. When sending your CV and cover letter out to the prospective employer, the end game is to land the job, so adding some personality through your cover letter can really set you aside from the other candidates.
How to structure your cover letter
The common rule of practice to follow when it comes to formatting your cover letter, is to stick to a single A4 sheet of paper. Keeping it remotely brief and simple, the cover letter should hit each key point you want your employer to know – and should be structured as follows:
How to address your cover letter
Firstly, find out who you are addressing your application to. Whether that be a recruitment manager, a HR assistant or a general employee of the company, addressing a specific employee is a great way to personalise your cover letter. Employers love being referred to by their name, as opposed to sir or madam and by knowing who it is you’re addressing, it opens up revenues to follow-up about your application. Search through the companies ‘about us’ page, or scan through Linkedin to find the correct person to address.
This is your opening and the chance to explain to your potential employer your reason for applying, which job it is that you are applying for and why you want this job and feel you are a right fit for the role.
In this paragraph, applicants should explain why they would be suitable for the role. Expand on how your skill set matches the requirements of the role, and use your research of the company to back up your skills. Relate your career goals and attributes to the companies – to further illustrate why you would be a good candidate for the role.
Paragraph three should be tailored around discussing relevant experience and gives candidates the opportunity to explain how they will fair in this role on a day to day basis.
Closing your cover letter
When closing your cover letter – reiterate your reasons for applying by writing a brief summary as to why you want to be considered for the role and finish with ‘Yours Sincerely’ and follow with your contact details. Adding your contact information makes it easier for the employer to get in touch with any questions, or to inform if your application is successful or not.
What you SHOULD include
If you want to remain ahead of competing candidates, ensure your potential employer reads your cover letter with these simple tips:
- When writing your cover letter, target your letter for each specific application. Including job specifics from your CV will give you that extra edge when applying for multiple job roles
- Using your experience from previous jobs could help you in the role you are applying for. Explaining how these experiences have helped add value to your previous work, shows the employer that you have skills that may not have been asked for in the application.
- Highlighting transferable skills from previous employment or specific skills learnt from qualifications that will be useful in the job you are applying for are other favourable additions.
- Inject elements of personality into your cover letter. Stay away from the ‘I am a hard worker’ cliche and demonstrate that you have the ability to work hard in more engaging ways. People buy into people, using generic cover letter phrases may put you at a disadvantage.
What NOT to include
It’s easy enough to get carried away when writing a cover letter, but there are a few topics you should stay away from whilst applying. Here are a few points on what not to include in your cover letter:
- Stick to a one-sided A4 piece of paper. You can write pages and pages about your experience both in and out of work but it isn’t needed for a cover letter, keep it short, brief and to the point.
- When picking a font, there’s no need for standout, bold fonts or fancy calligraphy. Stick to simple, easy to read and navigate fonts, such as Times New Roman or Arial.
- Don’t automatically assume that spelling and grammar are correct, there can always be a couple of tiny errors that may need fixing. Check and check again as this could reflect badly on your application.
- Don’t repeat exactly what is in your CV, a cover letter is a chance to explain why you are interested in the role not another page of your qualifications and work history.
If you have written a generic cover letter that can be tweaked for each new job application, make sure you double-check that when sending it to multiple recipients that you change the name and the company name. Re-reading the letter each time can benefit you in making sure that the right sender details have been included as once it is sent you can’t amend the email.
Sending your cover letter and CV through email
There are a few additional things to be aware of when applying for jobs online through your email address.
- Ask yourself, Do you have an appropriate email address? Have you had the same email address since you were at school? An employer isn’t going to open an email from “LuvS_2000@google.com” If you are still using an old email address it would be a good idea to create a new one that is professional, eg ,‘Sarah_Dixon@gmail.com’ something that includes your name and possibly a number if the email isn’t available.
- When closing your cover letter through email this is a great chance to add a link to your LinkedIn account if you have one created already. Contact details and any other relevant contact information when signing off.
- Another thing to be aware of is ensuring you have set up an appropriate email signature. Your email signature should include your full name, occupation and contact number.
If you need further guidance with writing the perfect, stand-out cover letter, other than the points we’ve highlighted here, then the University of Salford have a great careers service, where our team of colleagues are more than happy to help. The career service also runs regular workshops on topics such as how to write a great CV and cover letter, to help students on their way to securing their dream job.