A cover letter, or covering letter, is a document you send to a potential employer along with your CV when applying for a job. It is an introduction to you as a person and gives you the space to list your experience in more detail than on your CV.
A cover letter should expand on your skills and relate them directly for the job you are applying for. You can give an example of a job you’ve had, the skills you learnt there and then say why you think that would help you in this role. A cover letter aims to show employers why you are worth hiring over other people; you want to show them the best version of yourself and the skills, attributes and experience you already have that will be useful for the role.
The job advertisement or application information will state whether a cover letter is required. They may not indicate a word count, but always write concisely; try to think realistically about how much an employer is going to have time to read and don’t go beyond that.
Tips for writing a great cover letter
- Make sure it is relevant to the job. The point of a cover letter is to show how your skills are suitable for a particular job, so make sure to focus is direct to the job. List elements of the job, or qualities they want the candidate to have (usually found in the person-specification) so they can tell you have engaged with the application.
Suppose your cover letter sounds generic and unrelated to the job. In that case, the employer won’t be able to sense your enthusiasm for the role or commitment to the company.
- Have a strong opening paragraph. Like any piece of writing, your opening paragraph is crucial in enticing the reader and setting the tone. Make sure to include the critical information immediately, such as the job you are applying for and why you think you are right for the role. Even if the job is not particularly formal, take a professional tone from the beginning as this shows you are taking the job seriously.
- Address it correctly. If possible, address the cover letter directly to the person involved in the recruitment for the role. There may be a name in the application, or the email address. If there is no name, address professionally with Sir/Madam, or the company name.
- Say when you can start. Include your nearest possible start date in the cover letter, unless there is one stated in the advertisement. This shows an engagement with the conditions of the job and an eagerness to start.
- This is an essential part of writing a cover letter; no one is going to get it right the first time. Give yourself enough time when applying to do a few drafts, you will spot mistakes and clunky sentences every time you do. The more your proofread, the better the end product.
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