To give your job application the best possible chance of success you need to know how to write a relevant and concise cover letter. Take a look at our examples for inspiration
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a document sent alongside your CV when applying for jobs. It acts as a personal introduction and helps to sell your application. A cover letter is necessary as it gives you the chance to explain to an employer why you're the best candidate for the job. You do this by highlighting relevant skills and experience; therefore you should always write your cover letter with the position you're applying for in mind.
Cover letters should complement your CV but not duplicate it. The general consensus among recruiters when it comes to the length of these documents is the shorter the better. Typically three to five short paragraphs, cover letters should not exceed one A4 page. If sending electronically, put the text in the body of the email rather than as an attachment, to avoid it being detected by spam filters.
Applications should always include a cover letter unless the job advert instructs you differently.
How to write a cover letter
Keep your cover letter brief, while making sure it emphasises your suitability for the job. It can be broken down into the following sections:
- First paragraph - The opening statement should set out why you're writing the letter. Begin by stating the position you're applying for, where you saw it advertised and when you are available to start.
- Second paragraph - Cover why you’re suitable for the job, what attracted you to this type of work, why you're interested in working for the company and what you can offer the organisation.
- Third paragraph - Highlight relevant experience and demonstrate how your skills match the specific requirements of the job description. Summarise any additional strengths and explain how these could benefit the company.
- Last paragraph - Use the closing paragraph to round up your letter. Reiterate your interest in the role and indicate your desire for a personal interview. Now is the time to mention any unavailable dates. Finish by thanking the employer and say how you are looking forward to receiving a response.
How to address a cover letter
Always try and address your cover letter directly to the person who will be reading it. Bear in mind that you're more likely to receive a reply if you send it to the right person.
Advertised positions usually include a contact name, but if not, it is worth taking the time to find out who the letter should be addressed to. You can do this by searching the company’s website for details of the hiring manager or alternatively you could call the organisation to ask who you should address your letter to. Don't be afraid to do this, many employers will appreciate you taking the time and initiative to do so.
If you're struggling to find a named contact you can use a general salutation such as:
- Dear Sir/Madam
- Dear Hiring manager
- Dear Human resources director.
However, general greetings should only be used once you have exhausted methods of finding a named contact. How you sign off your cover letter depends on how you addressed it. If you include a named contact sign off 'yours sincerely'. If you use a general one finish with 'yours faithfully'.
Example cover letters
6 tips for the perfect cover letter
With employers often receiving lots of applications for each vacancy, you need to ensure that your cover letter makes a lasting impression for the right reasons. Here are some tips to increase your chances of success:
- Be concise - Ideally a cover letter should take up half a page of A4 or one full page if necessary. Read through the document and cut out any unnecessary words and sentences. Don't fill up available space by repeating what's already covered in your CV.
- Tailor to the organisation - You should rewrite your cover letter every time you apply for a position in order to target the individual company. Sending out a generic letter for all applications rarely yields positive results and recruiters can spot your lack of time and effort from a mile away.
- Proofread - Never rely on a computer spellcheck program to pick up every mistake. Print off your cover letter and double-check for spelling and grammar errors before passing it to family member or friend to look over. Also make sure that your own contact details and the company name are correct.
- Format - Presentation is important so you'll need to format your cover letter properly. Make sure the document is as uncluttered as possible, use the same font and size as you use in your CV and if you're sending it through the post or handing it in use good quality plain white paper to print it on.
- Identify your USPs - They're your unique selling points. Be positive about what you have to offer and clearly outline how your skills and experience meet those requested in the job description. Demonstrate why you’re the perfect candidate.
- Include examples - Back up the claims in your cover letter with real evidence or examples that show how and when you've used your skills and experience.
Find out more
If you're a student or recent graduate you can make an appointment with your university's careers and employability service to access further help when writing your cover letter. You'll be able to talk with specially-trained advisers, get advice on what to include and have a professional eye look over your application before sending.
Written by Jemma Smith, Editor
Prospects · April 2017
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Get your cover letter right.
There are several elements that need to be included in any cover letter. When you know how to write a cover letter properly, you will be able to do it again for any new job applications that you might make. Just follow these simple steps:
- Start with your name and postal address. These contact details should be in the top right-hand corner of the cover letter. Include your email address and telephone number as means of contacting you.
- Write the date of your letter underneath your contact details.
- Add the contact details of your addressee. Start these details on the next line of your cover letter, but on the left-hand side of the paper. Along with the job title, write down the name of the person you are writing to.
- Add the job title of the addressee.
- Add the company name and address. Again, this should be on the left-hand side of the page.
- Address your readers. Leave a line below the contact details then write, “Dear Mrs. Jones,” or whatever the right name might be. If this is unknown, then, “Dear Sir or Madam,” will suffice.
- Add the job reference. Before you start the body of the letter, add any reference that has been given for the job application, for example, “Re: Engineering Trainee, Eastern Division” or “ Ref – HR/004.”
- Introduce your CV in two or three short paragraphs.
- End and sign your letter. In most cases end with, “Yours faithfully” and then your name. Leave a big enough gap so that you can add your signature, whether it is electronic or hand-written.
- End your letter informally only in the case where you know the individual you are writing to, perhaps because you are making an internal application within your organisation. In these cases, you can sign off with, “Yours sincerely,”
What to include in a cover letter
- Say you are submitting your CV and application form in the main body of your cover letter.
- Don´t cover everything in your CV. This tends to create the unwanted impression that you are merely repeating yourself. It is best to highlight one or two points from your CV if they are especially pertinent to the job you are applying for.
- Keep the letter simple. One sentence is fine if you can say all that you want to in only a few words. If you need to progress to a second paragraph, include a line break. This avoids any large, lengthy text passages and makes the letter easier to read.
- Upload your cover letter with Monster.
Remember that your cover letter is the first thing that a potential employer will look at when considering your application. Dedicate the time and effort into getting it right and you will have taken your first step towards a new job!