A cover letter goes hand in hand with a CV. With the digitalisation of recruitment processes, some employers do not require a cover letter anymore. This is particularly true for student and graduate-level jobs. However, it is still required for most roles, including both experienced hire and graduate roles.
The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself to a prospective employer, show that you have met the key criteria for the role and demonstrate your skills. A well-written cover letter will help you increase your chance of getting an interview. It is also where you can explain things that you could not explain in your CV and include some additional information that makes you stand out from the crowd.
In order to write a good cover letter, you may need to pay attention to the following points.
- Get the layout right
The cover letter should be kept to one page only, ideally 3-4 paragraphs. A recruiter will not spend a lot of time reading cover letters. A lengthy cover letter may lose the reader’s interest.
In the beginning, you should use the standard header, date and addressee formula – make sure you are using salutations correctly, e.g. Dear Mr Smith… Yours sincerely, Dear Sir…Yours faithfully.
The title of the letter should refer to the position.
- Get to the point straight away in the opening paragraph
The opening paragraph is the most important part of a cover letter. This paragraph should introduce you and explain the opportunity you are looking for to the recruiter. Therefore, it is important to position yourself right in the opening paragraph and introduce your experience or achievement that give you a competitive advantage over others.
- Link the letter to the reader’s needs and not your own
Every cover letter you write should be tailored to that particular role and company. You need to highlight that you understand what the role requires, demonstrate you have the skills/experiences that match and provide examples to support these.
- Research, research, research
You need to be as specific as possible to show that you really know what makes the company different and why you are motivated to work for it. Try to avoid generic statements that could be true of any company. The more you research, the more powerful your cover letter will be. If you had any personal interactions with the company via an event or internship, you should include these in your letter.
- Get personal
Your cover letter should focus on you and your experience, rather than a group’s. You should use “I”, not “we”. You can link statements you make to your personal experiences to support your claims. This will help the recruiter understand you more and will really demonstrate your motivation.
- Keep it positive
Negative statements of any kind should be avoided within the letter. The recipient will note with interest if you mention you don’t like making presentations/have a problem working within a team/struggle with report writing and will probably dismiss your application. That’s why it is vital to be positive and focus on things you do well.
- Close it properly
You can close your cover letter by thanking the readers time and stating that you are keen to join the firm or do the job. Statements like “I feel my experience and approach would lend itself well to the position in your audit team, and I am keen to meet the challenge of the role. I look forward to hearing from you.” Or “I look forward to hearing from you and discussing this position in more detail. Thank you for your time.” can be used.
- Never lie
Although it is important to keep things positive, you should never embellish statements to the point where they become untrue. Lying in order to obtain a position is a sackable offence. Even if you are invited to an interview by lying in your cover letter and CV, you cannot hide it during your interview or at work.
- Check again!
Imagine that you are a recruiter – how do you react to a letter with many spelling and grammar mistakes? So, it is essential to re-read your cover letter a few times, re-checking the content, grammar and spelling. If you can substitute another company name for the one in the letter and the letter still reads the same – go back and start again! You may not get an interview with this letter.
It is also a good idea to have a professional or a friend read your cover letter and give you feedback. If you are a student, you can also use your university’s career service. In addition, there is a wide range of resources available. Learn and Pass is one of the website’s that is specialised in providing students, graduates and young professionals with CV and Cover Letter review services.