In most cases, you will need to write a cover letter to apply for a job. It should specify this in the job advert, but if not, it can be a good idea to write one regardless, to set yourself apart from the competition and give yourself the best chance at obtaining an interview.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a supporting document that you send with your CV which demonstrates the qualities that set you apart from other applicants. A personal introduction, the cover letter should introduce and compliment the CV without being a summary of it. This is your chance to sell your skills, knowledge and abilities to prospective employers.
Tips for writing a good cover letter
- Keep it concise – It is wise to keep your cover letter short and relevant, and half to a full page is adequate in order to keep the reader’s attention. Cut out unnecessary detail and ensure your style is eloquent.
- Tailor it – You may have had ten jobs, starting from working in a shoe shop at the age of sixteen, yet not all of the jobs you apply for will be interested in every single role you have undertaken. Think about what the job role you are going for is, and include details only of relevant work experience.
Make the cover letter unique to the job role, and not a generic copy and paste job. Feature information about yourself, the role, and the company, and keep the content exciting and varied.
- Proofread your work – Do whatever works for you, whether printing it out and using a red pen, to reading it aloud, to make sure there are no small errors on your letter that could be detrimental to your success. It is not worth missing out on an interview because of an oversight, so it is worth getting a friend or family member to look at your drafted cover letter too.
What you should include:
- Both of your contact details – Your cover letter should read like a letter, so it is important to put yours and their contact details, including name, address, phone and email. This will ensure your letter matches the professional standards expected by the hiring manager.
- Introduction – Talk about what you are applying for and how you learned about the job, and grab their attention with a brief sentence outlining why you think you would be a great fit for the role.
- Body – Go into more detail here, tell the reader about your goals, and draw on specific qualifications and experiences that were listed in the job posting. Give examples of your accomplishments and abilities. Go into a little bit of detail about the company and why you want to work there, as this shows you have taken extra care to research the role fully.
- Closing – Round up your letter with a conclusion of what you have to offer, then thank the hiring manager for their consideration, and express that you are looking forward to hearing back from them. Finally, sign off with a close such as ‘Kind regards, Frederick Lewis’ and a signature.
What you should not include:
- A summary of your CV – nobody wants to read the same thing in two different ways, and your hiring manager will likely be pushed for time, with many CV’s and covering letters to get through – so make their life easier and write your cover letter in a specific, concise way complimenting your CV.
- To whom it may concern or Dear Sir/Madam – do everything you can to find out their name, but as a last resort use the phrase ‘Dear hiring manager’
- A generic template – Using one you have used a dozen times, crammed with key words but the only thing you have changed is the name of the reader and company, looks impersonal and lazy.
- Too much personal information – Nowadays, the employer does not need to know you age, sex, race, nationality, or marital status – they have no bearing on your application.
Devoting the necessary time and effort to writing an effective cover letter for each application will ensure that your CV isn’t simply ignored, and will put you in good stead with the hiring manager.
David Lewis, managing director, integra people, warrington