How to Write the Perfect Cover Letter
A well-written cover letter is essential for the majority of job applications to accompany your CV. A good cover letter gives you the chance to successfully sell your skills, knowledge and abilities to prospective employers.
To ensure that you portray yourself in the best light, we’ve compiled our expert knowledge to create a guide on how to write the perfect cover letter. We’ve also included an example cover letter template to help you on your way to creating a successful cover letter.
What is a cover letter?
Cover Letter Examples & Templates
Cover Letter Format
How long should a cover letter be?
What to include in a cover letter
Why is a cover letter necessary?
Can I use the same letter for my applications?
Cover letter template
Our top cover letter tips
Your cover letter is a ‘personal introduction’ providing information as to why you would be suited to the vacancy. A cover letter is a document that is sent alongside your CV, it should complement your CV, and provide additional details on your qualifications and previous experience.
As your cover letter is one of the first things an employer or recruiter sees when looking at your job application, ensure that it highlights your skills and experience in relation to the job role.
A great cover letter can make all the difference between landing an interview or sitting idly by the phone, waiting for that ever-elusive call.
If you’re looking to apply for specific jobs, we can help you get your cover letter ready with our cover letter examples and templates.
- Generic Cover Letter Template
- Administrative Cover Letter Template
- Receptionist Cover Letter Template
- Assistant Manager Cover Letter Template
- Customer Service Cover Letter Template
- Sales Assistant Cover Letter Template
- Recruitment Consultant Cover Letter Template
A cover letter is a professional document to accompany your CV, therefore it should be presented in business letter style format.
Ensure that it is in a readable font that matches your CV, so that employers can quickly scan for essential information. Use fonts such as Calibri, Arial, Verdana or Times New Roman – in size 10 or 12. Never include images or word art in your cover letter.
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!
Header: Cover letters should always start with contact information, both yours and the employers. This contact information includes:
- First & Last Name
- Street Address
- Phone Number
- Email Address
Salutation: Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms & Last Name
Introduction: In the first paragraph, make the reader aware of why you’re writing this letter. This means in essence – let them know who you are, include the job you’re applying for, and make mention of your objective.
2nd Paragraph: Touch on why you’d like to work for the company, and let them know of any knowledge or passion you have for this sector.
3rd Paragraph: Highlight your relevant skills and experience (as listed on your CV). Summarise any other strengths or qualifications you might have.
Closing: This paragraph should round up your cover letter, begin by reiterating your key skills and how they match the job role, then move on to thanking the employer for their time to read and mention that you look forward to hearing back from them.
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 them 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 cover letter, so make sure you go the extra mile, and produce a cover letter to end all cover letters.
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. Show them that you’ve put in the time and effort – they’ll appreciate it.
If you’re looking for help to get your cover letter ready, below is our handy template for you to use.
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].
1. Keep it short and sweet
Similar to your CV, a good cover letter should be 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.
Using generic lines like, “My name is ____, and I am applying for the position as ____” is best avoided when it comes to writing the perfect cover letter. Employers and recruiters are likely to get bored looking over your application and you’re more likely to be dismissed for a more original candidate.
Adding some personality to your cover letter shows that you’ve but some time and thought into it, which will go a long way. 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, 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 foolproof
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 simply because you 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, these factors are all extraneous factors and should have no bearing on your application.