Cover Letters

Cover Letters

If you are required to send a CV to an employer for a vacancy, you should always include a cover letter, unless instructed differently. A cover letter is your opportunity to introduce yourself to an employer and support why you are perfect for the role, so it must be flawless. If your cover letter is poor, an employer may be unlikely to look at your CV. Here are some of our best tips on how to get the best out of your cover letter and impress employers:

What is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a document sent with your CV when you apply for a job to enlighten an employer on what makes you the best person for a job. You can do this by highlighting all your relevant skills and experience, this means a cover letter should be written with the role you’re applying for in mind. Your cover letter should complement your CV without replicating it. It is generally accepted that most cover letters should be no more than one side of A4 – basically, the shorter the better.

A cover letter’s main purpose is to persuade the employer to talk to you. By demonstrating your written communication skills, you’ll able to prove to an organisation that you have all the abilities necessary to be an impressive employee. A cover letter for a graduate role has a standardised format that can be easily followed.

Writing a cover letter

Your cover letter should be concise and to the point, while making sure you emphasise your ability to complete the job. Like a CV, your cover letter should be tailored to the role in which you are applying and can easily be broken down into a few key sections with a standardised format:

  • First paragraph – this is the opening statement where you lay out why you’re writing the letter and what you’re currently doing. You should start by mentioning the position you’re applying for, where you found it advertised.
  • Second paragraph – this paragraph should set out why you’re suitable for the role and what attracted you to the position and sector. Try to summarise what you could offer the company and give compelling examples of your abilities. These should be some of the most important things you’d want an employer to know about you.
  • Third paragraph – highlight any relevant experience you have and establish how your skills meet those required by the organisation. Check out the job listing for essential requirements and ensure that yours match the description.
  • Final paragraph – this is to reiterate what you’ve already covered and close off the letter. Repeat your interest in the vacancy and indicate your wish for an interview by mentioning any available dates. You should always end by thanking the employer for reading and state that you look forward to their response.

Who do I address?

Try and address your letter directly to the person you know will be reading it – your letter is more likely to receive a reply if it’s addressed correctly. The name of the recipient is usually listed in the job description, and if it is not, it may be worth contacting the organisation for the name of the person CVs should be sent to.

Most employers will appreciate that you’ve taken the time and initiative to do this and will show you are genuinely interested in the position. If you are struggling to find a named contact, or do not receive a reply from a business, you can use a general address such as “Dear Sir/Madam”. This should only be used as a last resort.

The sign off of the letter depends on how it is addressed. If you are writing to a named person, “yours sincerely” is the correct form, if you are contacting a ‘Sir/Madam’ the ending is “yours faithfully”.

Our top writing tips

  • Use key words that the employer will be looking for – these will be those skills specified on the job listing. Make sure you tailor your CV to the organisation to gain the best results.
  • Check your spelling and grammar! This is one of the first things that an employer will ever see about you, it’s crucial that your writing is up to scratch. Take a break after writing your cover letter and have another look later. You could also use a spell check tool or have a family member or friend look over the letter on your behalf to check that everything is accurate and flows.
  • Short and sweet is ideal for a cover letter. An employer will not want to look through multiple pages of what makes you perfect for the role, after all, your CV is meant to do this once your cover letter has paved the way with a few perfect examples.
  • Identify your key selling points and include the information about yourself you most want an employer to know. This could be the excellent degree award you received or any relevant work experience that could indicate you have what it takes for the role.
  • Ensure that the formatting of your cover letter is up to scratch and consistent throughout. The document should be uncluttered and use the same font and size as in your CV.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Avoid discrepancies. Anything you write about in your cover letter or CV is fair game to the recruiter once it comes to the interview stage. You should be able to freely discuss all of the information that you’ve included in both documents, so lying or over exaggerating any facts is not the best idea as you will be caught out.
  • Me, me, me. Though you are trying to put the best version of yourself forward to the organisation, you should try to avoid talking about you too much. You are applying for a vacancy for a reason – they need someone with skills for the role, so instead take up the needs of your prospective employer.
  • Writing a novel. The employer already has your CV so there’s no need to rehash the entire thing. Instead, pick out a few of the most crucial pieces of information about yourself that you want them to know. Another way to impress is by proving your commercial awareness and opening with a few sentences about the company before highlighting your own skills and talents that speak to their needs.
  • Lack of research. As stated above, employers love to hear about what you can do for their company. Research a business’ website or social media to find out a bit more about what they do and utilise this information within your cover letter to really prove that you know your stuff and impress.
  • Generic waffle. Even if you’re responding to an anonymised listing as is common in the graduate recruitment market, this is not an excuse to send out a generic cover letter. While your introduction may not be so specific, you will still be able to write about how you fit the key requirements from the job description to catch the reader’s attention.

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