How to write a great cover letter
Competition is tough, so how do you make yourself stand out from the rest of the job-seeking crowd? With an amazing cover letter, of course!
Don’t get us wrong, having a great CV is incredibly important in landing your dream job. But what if employers don’t even get as far as seeing yours?
Unfortunately, many companies confess that if they’re presented with a sub-par cover letter, they won’t even look at the candidate’s CV and their application will be tossed in the bin. As your CV is just a list of your experience and achievements, it’s cover letters that really wow employers and show them a bit of your personality.
The beauty of this simple page of A4 is that it acts as a chance to sell yourself in a few sentences, and give off a good first impression before you’ve even had a chance to meet face-to-face.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a document that you send with your CV as part of a job application. Rather than a CV, which is tailored to your skills and experiences, a cover letter is aimed specifically at the job you’re applying for.
It’s a chance to show a bit more of your personality and explain why you’re the best person for the job. While it’s not always required when applying for jobs, it’s never a bad idea to add one. Since it’s often the first thing a company sees before looking at your CV, it can make or break your application.
Tips for writing the perfect cover letter
These are the best ways to write a cover letter:
1. Research the company and the industry
Just as you would do if you were preparing for a job interview, you should be thoroughly researching the company and the role as much as possible before you even think about starting your cover letter. What exactly will you be doing? What’s the company’s vision? Who are their competitors? Who are their customers/audience? Once you’re armed with this knowledge, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to get started.
2. Tailor your cover letter to the job
Remember cover letters need to be tailored to the job you are applying for. Do not send the same cover letter out over and over again (employers can sniff out a copy-and-paste job from a mile away). When writing your cover letter, always have a copy of the job specification next to you, and keep checking back to make sure everything you’re writing is relevant. Try as hard as you possibly can to find a name to address your cover letter.
If you’re unsure, you can always check LinkedIn, or even just call up and ask. Someone should be able to give you a name, and it’ll show that you’ve gone the extra mile. Make sure you remember to include your own address as well as the company’s on the letter as well (see our graduate cover letter template below for the correct layout).
3. Be formal but friendly
If an employer has asked for a cover letter, they’re looking for the candidate to demonstrate they can communicate and present themselves professionally on the paper.
As such, keep it relatively formal but don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through a little bit too (being too formal can really stifle this). The job description is normally a good indication of the sort of tone you should be using.
How to structure your cover letter
Now to get into the essentials! The easiest way to approach a student or graduate cover letter is to consider it as four separate sections:
Keep the introduction brief – just one or two sentences. Mention the job that you’re applying for, as well as the fact that you were excited to come across the vacancy and have the opportunity to apply.
Then mention who you are (as in “a recent graduate” not “my name is…”) and point out that you’ve attached your CV (if requested).
Example of how to start a cover letter
I’m reaching out with great enthusiasm in response to your vacancy for Junior Marketer at Butler’s Bakes. As a recent Marketing graduate with a serious passion for cake (both making and eating!), I was really excited to come across this vacancy.
Explain why you love their company
Now it’s time to say why you’re interested in them specifically. This is where you prove that you’re not just copied one of the 8,327,507 student cover letter examples available online, but have actually taken the time to think about why you want to work for this company in particular.
Show them that you aren’t just desperate to find a job, any job, as long as it pays, because you’re sick of being a poor student.
Try to mention something that shows you have an awareness and understanding of the company beyond stating the obvious.
For example, if you’re applying for a graduate job at an accountancy firm and you noticed that they’re mentioned as one of the top graduate employers in the UK – get massaging their ego.
Try something like:
As one of the UK’s top graduate employers, I admire the company’s efforts in creating opportunities for young talent in what is an increasingly competitive graduate job market.
Explain why you’re the best candidate for the role
Now it’s time to talk about what you can offer them. This isn’t an opportunity to show off whatever you feel like telling them about, but a chance to bring up some qualities you know they are looking for and that you can prove you have.
Highlight your key skills – but only the ones that are actually relevant. The best way to tackle this bit is to write down a list of three key skills mentioned in the job description, and then have a look over your CV to see what you have to offer that demonstrates you have those skills.
Remember at this point that no matter how impressive it is that you spent six weeks doing Camp America, there’s no point in mentioning it unless you can show a direct link between that and something that they’re looking for in this position.
How to end a cover letter
As always, keep it short and sweet!
Wrap things up by saying something on the modest side, along the lines of:
I’d love to have the opportunity to become part of the team at Butler’s Bakes, and I’m confident that given the chance to meet with you, you’d deem me a great fit.
Thank them for taking the time to consider your application and now for the big finale: the ultimate “Yours sincerely/faithfully” (no lots of love).
Leave five spaces for your signature and then type your full name underneath. No kisses!
Then all that’s left to do is proofread and convince any friends or family to check it before sending it off.