How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter
To ensure you portray yourself in the best light, we’ve answered your questions on how to write a cover letter, and included an example cover letter template for your reference.
What is a cover letter?
Why is a cover letter necessary?
How long should the letter be?
What should the structure of a cover letter be?
Can I use the same letter for my applications?
Our top cover letter tips
Cover letter template
Your cover letter is a ‘personal introduction’ providing information as to why you would be suited to the vacancy. It should highlight your skills and experience in relation to the job.
It should typically complement your CV, and is one of the first things an employer sees when looking at your application. It can make all the difference between getting an interview or sitting idly by the phone, waiting for that ever-elusive call.
A cover letter allows you to give the employer a snapshot of why you’re the best candidate for the role. The goal is to show them how and why you fit their criteria, without their ever having to refer to your CV.
Remember, the screening process can be extremely rigorous, so a cover letter is an opportunity to grab their attention from the very beginning. Recruiters and employers will often bin CVs that aren’t accompanied by a letter, so make sure you go the extra mile, and produce a cover letter to end all cover letters.
No employer wants to be met by a wall of text when scouring applications; it’s best to keep your cover letter to one page, though 3-5 (short) paragraphs would be ideal. A recent employer survey found the following:
19% of employers preferred a full page
46% preferred half a page
11% had no preference
24% preferred shorter
As you can see from the above numbers, there’s a clear preference towards short cover letters. So make it snappy!
In the first paragraph, let them know why you’re writing: this means, let them know who you are, include the job you’re applying for, and make mention of your objective.
In the second paragraph, touch on why you’d like to work for the company, and let them know of any knowledge or passion you have for the sector.
The third paragraph should highlight your relevant skills and experience (as listed on your CV). Summarise any other strengths you might have.
The fourth (and presumably final!) paragraph should round up your letter, thanking the employer for the time and saying you look forward to hearing back from them.
The resounding answer to this question is NO! Under no circumstance should you copy-paste your cover letter across applications. Don’t use generic lines like, ‘My name is ___, and I am applying for the position as ____’. All this serves to do is bore the person looking over your application, and you’ll most likely be passed over for a more original and exciting candidate. So show them that you’ve put in the time and effort – they’ll appreciate it.
1. Keep it short and sweet
Similar to your CV, you should keep your cover letter short and to-the-point.
You don’t need to write your autobiography (thank goodness!) as employers usually just want a succinct summary of your experience and relevant skills.
Cut out the flowery language, the unnecessary detail, and give the people what they want. That is, an explanation of;
- Why you’d like the job
- Why you are qualified for the job
Cover these two key points, and you’re gold.
2. Tailor your cover letter
If you wear many hats then that’s great, but you’ll need to hang up a few of them when applying for sector-specific roles. It is important to understand what to include in a cover letter and what to miss out.
Ensure that you tailor your cover letter by emphasizing the skills and experience that are relevant to the vacancy. For example, if you’re applying for a position in retail, then you should definitely include the time that you worked part-time at HMV. However if you’re going for an editorial role, ensure that you pay special attention to the times you’ve gotten to flex your literary muscles.
Remember it is important to highlight relevant past achievements and tailor your cover letter to the vacancy.
3. Make your cover letter unique
This is in line with tailoring your cover letter, but takes it one step further.
Don’t use generic lines like, “My name is ____, and I am applying for the position as ____”. All this serves to do is bore the person looking over your application, and you’ll most likely be passed over for a more original and exciting candidate.
So show them that you’ve put in the time and effort – they’ll appreciate it. Be assertive, feature not only information about yourself, but information about the role and company. For example what the company does, what you like about the role, where you saw the job advertised and when you’re able to start.
4. Keep the language professional
A casual tone is ill-advised in a cover letter. Ensure that you avoid colloquialisms, regional slang, or awkward jargon. You want to engage the employer, and not confound them with what you’re trying to say.
To be on the safe side, use clear and concise terms, and try to maintain a formal, professional tone throughout your cover letter (though maybe not too formal – you still want your enthusiasm to shine through!).
5. Make it fool proof
If you haven’t already, then make sure that you proofread your cover letter with an eagle eye. Have a friend look it over as well, as they might notice something that you hadn’t previously.
Glaring spelling errors or grammatical inconsistencies can harm someone who would otherwise be a promising candidate.
Don’t miss out on your dream job because you simply missed a spelling mistake. Ensure that you double check your work!
6. Down to basics
This might sound simple, but remember to include details like your address, telephone number, and email.
However we suggest that you exclude your age, gender, or marital status. As these factors are all extraneous factors and should have no bearing on your application.
If you’re looking for help to get your cover letter ready, below is our handy template for you to download.
98 Park Hill Gardens
9 March 2016
Application for role of [insert job title and reference if given]
Dear [insert hiring manager’s name],
As a [insert profession here] with over 5 years’ experience, I am eager to put my skills to work in a fast-paced, buzzing company like [insert company name]. I would like to apply for your [insert role] as advertised in [insert jobsite/newspaper] as I would prove a perfect fit for your business.
You’ll see from the attached CV that I’m diligent, creative and adept at delivering to tight deadlines. Having led group projects at [insert old work place] and completed a successful campaign on [highlight an achievement], I offer valuable practical experience to back up my strong marketing credentials.
A few examples:
- Created an integrated launch campaign for a luxury travel website – from brand development and communications planning to response tracking.
- Managed the retail marketing team in one of Manchester’s busiest agencies to create client pitches, direct mail and sales collateral.
- Organised the launch of [company name] mobile app which has generated over 50,000 downloads so far.
Thank you for considering my application. I hope to have the opportunity to interview for the role and look forward to hearing from you. You can reach me on [insert mobile] or [insert email].