How to Write a Cover Letter
A cover letter is your introduction to your prospective new employer and whilst it provides you the opportunity to personalise your application, your CV is the primary tool, your cover letter should provide the right impression and entice the reader to your CV.
There are two main types of cover letter
- Targeted letter – for use when responding to specific job advertisements
- Speculative letter – for use when approaching companies “cold”
The structure of both letters is very similar and there are some basic rules which should be followed to ensure your cover letter is as effective as possible. Both letters should be presented and written in standard business letter format, and in a simple and concise manner, with no spelling or grammatical errors.
In addition, it should be three to five paragraphs and should ideally not exceed a single side of A4. There may be instances when this is not the case, but unless directed otherwise in your application process, here is a simple formula to follow:
Explain your reason for writing and outline the role you are applying for, the level of salary you are looking for and locations you are interested in or prepared to relocate to. If you are responding to a specific job advert (a targeted letter), state where you saw the advertisement. You should then grab the reader’s attention by including a few lines about what you have to offer, ensuring this is directly relevant to the specific role (targeted) or type of role (speculative) that you are applying for.
The next one to two paragraphs
Focus on your skills, experiences and achievements. In the case of a targeted letter, it is important to demonstrate how you meet the essential criteria specified in the advertisement. If this is a speculative application, think about what skills are looked for in the type of role you are targeting and make these the focus of the two paragraphs.
A cover letter should also include something directly related to the company that you are writing to. It is a good idea to state what it is about their organisation that interests you and, if you can include any statistics or snippets of information, that indicate that you have done some research, this can only improve your chances.
The final paragraph
End the letter on a positive note. Thank them for their time and consideration and proactively encourage an interview, stressing your flexibility with regard to interview dates and times.
In summary, your cover letter should pick out the very best bits of your CV, without just repeating the information verbatim. It should convey a positive approach and attitude and should grab the reader’s attention.