cover letters

Keep it brief. One side of A4 should be sufficient.

do i need a cover letter?

A cover letter should always accompany your CV unless you are told otherwise. It allows you to personalise an application and highlight key areas of your CV in more depth.

It can also be called a covering letter.

Just like a CV, a good cover letter is essential when looking for work, especially as most employers spend approximately half a minute casting an eye over each job application.

With this in mind, you have to make sure that your cover letter makes enough of an impression in those 30 seconds to make the reader want to learn more about you. But what should it contain? Building upon the information in your CV, a cover letter should state in no uncertain terms why this company should hire you. Everything it includes should encourage the recruiter to give your CV the attention it deserves.

how do i write a cover letter?

Keep your cover letter brief, while making sure it emphasises your suitability for the job. See an example breakdown below: 

  • First paragraph – the opening statement should set out why you are writing the letter. Begin by stating the position you’re applying for, where you saw it advertised and when you are available to start.
  • Middle paragraphs – what attracted you to this vacancy and type of work; why you’re interested in working for the company; and what you can offer to the organisation. Demonstrate how your skills match the specific requirements of the job description.
  • Last paragraph – use the closing paragraph to indicate your desire for a personal interview, while mentioning any unavailable dates. Finish by thanking the employer and say how you are looking forward to receiving a response.
research

It is imperative that you do some research on the company and the job you’re applying for to find out which are the main skills the employer needs.
Things to know include: what the company does, their competitors and where they’re placed in the market.

Think like an employer – which combination of personal qualities, experience, qualifications, and skills would impress? Provide the evidence that you’ve got them.

Speak their language Use their kind of language. It may seem like a small point, but some organisations prefer formal business language, and others prefer plainer speaking. Have a look at the employer’s website, job advertisements and any other communication to try to find out what their preferred language style is.

Not only will carrying out this research give you the knowledge you require to tailor your cover letter and CV to the style of the company, it also demonstrates that you’ve a real interest in the role and the company itself.

mistakes

Your covering letter is an opportunity to show employers how well you express yourself and it should entice them to read your CV. If you want to ensure it is as effective as possible, avoid these common mistakes:

  • failing to address the letter to a named individual at the company;
  • repeating what is written in your CV;
  • forgetting to proofread your letter;
  • spilling over onto a second page;
  • sharing unnecessary personal details and giving rambling explanations;
  • concentrating too much on your qualifications rather than your skills and experience;
  • failing to target your letter to the specific job you’re applying for;
  • Not tailoring the cover letter to the company or job you’re applying to;
  • Not replacing a company name from templates;
  • Lying.
gaps in your cv

You must always explain any large gaps in your CV and your cover letter is the place to do so.

This is so a potential employer doesn’t misinterpret a break in your career history. If you approach it positively, it shouldn’t be an issue. Reasons for gaps in your CV include:

  • returning to work after a gap year;
  • having children;
  • caring for a sick relative;
  • suffering from a recurring medical condition; and
  • redundancy.

Finish by demonstrating your enthusiasm for the position and add that you are now ready to focus on your career.

The covering letter is your opportunity to provide more detail about these key points, more so than in your CV. You might also like to include real examples of when you’ve used these skills. Highlight any major achievements, such as completing training courses, promotions, company awards, or any other praise or recognition.