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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Example Cover Letter
If you are wondering how to write a cover letter, this is the right place for you. Check out our cover letter template below for inspiration. Remember, the job market is highly competitive so use this cover letter example to help you stand out from the crowd!
Create your CVA Guide to Job Hunting
EXAMPLE ONLY: COVER LETTER
Dear Mrs Smith,
I would like to apply for the position of Marketing Intern as advertised on studentjob.co.uk. I am a second year student studying BSc Marketing at the University of Cardiff.
I have always had a keen interest in marketing which influenced my decision to study marketing at university and part-take in my extracurricular activities. I am an active member of the Marketing Society where I help arrange events, society meetings and talks from prospective employers. Through my part-time job, I was responsible for establishing an effective marketing campaign for the launch of a new boutique in the centre of Cardiff, using various methods such as social media. I therefore have a strong understanding of how modern day marketing techniques can be used for business opportunities and networking. Furthermore, I was elected as the Team Leader as part of my degree module “Student Enterprise” where we were required to develop our own business idea and pitch it to potential investors against an opposing team. This allowed me to develop my leadership skills by delegating the appropriate roles and responsibilities to each team member, ensuring the team would successfully reach our aims and objectives.
I have many skills which I am able to contribute to the job role. My excellent communicational skills (both written and verbal) allow me to interact with members of an organisation from all levels. I have developed my public speaking and presentation skills through completing university presentations to new and prospective students and to my faculty department. I am organised, efficient and strive to complete any challenge given to me to the highest standard.
Attached is a copy of my CV. I am able to provide the names of referees who will support my application.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Once you have perfected your cover letter, you'll be ready to start applying for jobs! Check out our part time vacancies and graduate jobs to get started...
Top tips to prepare your cover letter
Your cover letter gives you an opportunity to expand on things you were unable to in your CV. So we’ve listed top tips on how to make the most of writing your cover letter. We’ve also included an example which will help you get an idea of the layout and what should be included.
Advert response or Speculative cover letter
The concept of an advert response and speculative cover letter is the same. When you write an advert response, you are applying for a role you have seen advertised. If you are writing a speculative cover letter, you are sending out your cover letter and cv to a company without seeing a vacancy advertised.In both cases, you need to demonstrate your skills and knowledge of the firm.
Keep it short and sharp
Ensure you have researched the company and job role properly and that you are able to portray this knowledge in your cover letter. However, make sure your letter is concise and you’re not rambling on about why you should have the job. Your cover letter should be no more than one A4 side.
Adjust your writing style
A good cover letter is written in a formal, professional style, but not too formal that it’s difficult to read. Make sure the letter fits the style of the organisation and job role you are applying to.
Start your cover letter briefly explaining who you are, the role you are applying for, and where you found the job vacancy advertised. Don’t include too much information in the first paragraph as this information is detailed later on in your cover letter.
In this paragraph detail why you have an interest in the job role and any background knowledge which will support this.
This is where you explain what skills you have, the qualifications which specifically apply to the job role, and what you can offer to the employer. It is important you don’t repeat yourself from what you’ve written in your CV!
Conclude your cover letter thanking the employer for their time and mention that your CV and references are attached (if applicable).
Proof read Grammatical errors in a cover letter give off a bad first impression and can make the difference between you or another candidate being selected. It’s a very simple thing but will make a big difference!
Save as PDF
Save your word document as a PDF file when you are all done and do not want to change anything anymore. This way you prevent messed up lay outs or other changes that are unintentional.
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