How to write a cover letter
Your cover letter is the first impression of yourself that you will offer to any prospective employer. More and more employers are looking to your Cover Letter when making the decision on who to short list for interview. You should use every opportunity you can for self-promotion and in many instances if you have a poor cover letter employers will not even look at your CV.
“A good cover letter can be the difference between getting a job and not…”
A cover letter is the perfect accompaniment to your CV, it is the first thing and employer will see and the perfect opportunity to sell yourself. Taken as a whole, a CV and covering letter will portray you in the best possible light. If done properly, your covering letter can make the difference between success and failure.
Try not to use pre-populated cover letters these are helpful as a starting point, but set yourself apart from your competitors and make your cover letter personal.
Step 1: Start with your letter with an address
More specifically, your address (and contact details) in the top right hand corner. After that, start the letter with the name and address of your employer. Try to find out exactly who will be dealing with your application and what their title is. You can do this by checking on the internet, or even ringing the company and asking. It gives the letter a much more personal touch if it is addressed to a real person rather than a generic sir/madam.
It is often difficult to know how to open such a letter. Keep it simple, start by telling them exactly what you want. Make sure it is clear what position you are applying for.
“I am writing to you regarding the ‘web designer’ position that was recently advertised on GradHub, and would be most grateful if you would consider my application for this position”
Step 2: Explain why you would like the job
Once you have broken the ice, it is time to make clear to your prospective employer what exactly it is about the job that attracts you. Why do you want the job?
Again, the key is to deal in specifics. Although your main motivation may be “for the money” or some such, it is better to try and pick one aspect of the job that particularly appeals to you and explain why.
“I am looking to pursue a career in web design, I have reviewed your company online and feel that they have the ethos that I am looking for and would offer the right environment for me to further my career”
Step 3: Highlight what skills you have to offer
Now that your reader knows the job is right for you, it’s time to move on and show that you are right for the job. Here is the place to address your strengths and qualifications that are directly relevant to the position. If there are specific requirements that are mentioned in the job description, use these terms when describing yourself.
You may have touched upon some of this in your CV, but here you have room to elaborate upon them more fully.
Try not to repeat too much of your CV though. After all, this is supposed to be read in conjunction with your CV, and a lot of crossover will come across as sloppy.
“I feel that I am good for this position as I have .net experience as outlined in the job advert.”
You can use your examples to bring in additional skills that may not be directly relevant. Working in things such as IT skills, or your organisational skills is a good idea.
Try to offer the reader something unique and beneficial. Use interesting examples that cast you in a separate light to others applying for the position.
Step 4: Finish your letter in a positive way
Make the employer remember you!
Finish off by stating clearly when you are available for interview. If there is no set starting date, it is a good idea to make a note of the earliest you can begin working.
You should also welcome the prospective employer to contact you if they need any further information. They should have your contact details from the top of the letter, and on your CV. Sign off and, if you are printing the letter out rather than emailing it, sign it for an added level of professionalism.
By approaching the cover letter in a structured manner, you can achieve a clear and concise argument as to why you are best suited to the job.
Remember that presentation can reflect strongly or poorly on you. The covering letter, like the CV informs your prospective employer’s first impressions of you.
Make sure you think about what you want to say!
Cover Letter Example
Your contact details
Dear John Smith,
This is where you will introduce yourself, state the position you are applying for, explain how you came to know about the job/company and why you are applying.
(If you have been recommended the position by someone in the company or have any connections to the company this is a good section to include that information).
This section should show that you have researched the company and the role. In order to get potential employers interested in you, you first have to show an interest in what they do. Go further that simply checking the website, spend some time browsing the company on social media. For example, check out some of the executives’ Twitter feeds or employee profiles on LinkedIn.
(You could also check for press releases, news, articles or anything else that might give you a clearer picture of the organisation and its culture, as this will help you to adopt the right tone in your cover letter.)
The next paragraph is the place where you will list the specific reasons why you should be considered for the job. This can include:
- Relevant experience
- Education or personal accomplishments that make you an ideal candidate.
- What’s special about you?
- How will your qualifications benefit an employer?
Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t meant to be a recap of your resume; you don’t have to cover everything and you shouldn’t just rattle off a list of skills and accomplishments. Try to show some personality, creativity and enthusiasm.
The last section is your closing paragraph. Here you will list any information that was specifically requested in the job posting, such as availability dates, and thank the employer for his/her time.
You can say something like “I look forward to hearing from you” or you can be more assertive by saying something like “I will contact you within the next two weeks to see if you require any additional information.”