A finely polished CV may no longer be sufficient to get the job you desire. Many companies now require applicants to submit a Cover Letter alongside their CV. But what exactly is a Cover Letter? What should it include and what can I do to make my letter stand out from other candidates? If you’re asking these questions you’re not alone. Fortunately, this article contains everything you need to know to write an effective cover letter.
What is a Cover Letter?
Traditionally submitted as a cover document to compliment a CV, a cover letter introduces prospective candidates to employers and explains why applicants are suited to the role on offer. Whilst a CV is an overview of your past experience, a cover letter specifically focuses on the job on offer, highlighting the candidate’s enthusiasm for the open position and demonstrating they have the required skills to fill the role. They are typically no more than a page in length and usually consist of 3 – 5 short paragraphs. The letter ought to include the applicant’s address, information on how they found out about the vacancy, why they are suited to the role and explain what they could offer to the company if they were hired.
7 Top Tips
- Use Formal terms of Address – Start the letter by addressing the employer. Where possible, address the person reviewing your letter directly by name. However, in the event you can’t find a specific person to address, use a more generic opening (Sir/Madam, Company Name or Hiring Manager). Use the formal term “Dear” to show respect to the employer. End the letter with “Yours sincerely,” or “Yours faithfully” if you used one of the generic terms of address.
- Don’t rewrite your CV – An effective cover letter should supplement your CV, offering extra details and context to employers. Avoid boring readers with a repetitive cover letter by ensuring each sentence offers the employer new information that complements your CV.
- Tailor your Letter to the Company – The most successful job applicants write a different cover letter for each job they apply for, accommodating the document to match the desired skill set and qualities that the company requires. Familiarise yourself with the company’s website and try to identify the organisation’s core values. Then adjust your cover letter accordingly, promoting any personality traits or experience that seem to fit well with the organisation’s ethos.
- Highlight your Unique Selling Point – An effective Cover letter should highlight to employers what differentiates you from all the other applicants they’re reviewing. Outline any experience or qualities you have that are relevant to the job description to help your application stand out from other prospective candidates.
- Don’t Just Describe, Demonstrate! – If you claim to have a certain skill set make sure you highlight instances in which you demonstrated those skills. Prove to employers that your claims are more than just empty words by providing clear examples on your cover letter.
- Explain a Gap – If there’s a large gap in your CV, the Cover letter is a good place to explain to employers why you took time out of work. Try and explain the reason for your time out of work in the third or fourth paragraph. If relevant, highlight any skills or knowledge you learned during that period. Ensure the explanation is followed up with a final paragraph that highlights your enthusiasm for the role and shows your readiness to return to work.
- Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar – Finally, re-read your letter! Don’t let silly typos or spelling mistakes hold you back from your dream job. Use the Grammarly website to check for errors. Put the document through text to speech software to hear what it sounds like aloud as you often notice mistakes in audio that you may not spot on the page. Then make sure you have a friend or family member read the document before you send it out.
Thank you for reading today’s article on Cover Letter tips. If you found this article helpful you may be interested in my other articles. Last month I wrote an article on writing an effective CV that nicely complements this. Finally, please consider sharing this article with a friend and leave a comment in the section below.