Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

How to write a cover letter

How to write a cover letterWhen applying for a job a well-written and carefully compiled CV is of fundamental importance. But, what many people forget is that a strong cover letter is also essential to the mix.

Employers receive hundreds of applications for a job and so will be looking for the smallest reason to discard yours. Poor presentation, content or bad grammar and spelling will see your letter hit the bin before they get past the first sentence.

How to write a cover letter

The cover letter is your chance to show that you match the criteria listed in the job specification. To tailor your cover letter to a job, structure your letter as follows:

  • Which job are you applying for and how did you hear about it?
  • Outline in half a dozen short paragraphs why you think you are suited to the job. List your relevant skills and experience, giving examples of where you’ve demonstrated them. It helps to print off the job spec and tick off the skills as you mention them. This will be the majority of the letter.
  • What could you bring to the role?
  • Why does the company interest you? This is your sign-off and is often part of the same sentence as what you could bring to the role.

Top tips

  • Make it concise and compelling: There is a fine line between writing too much and not writing enough. The cover letter should be no more than one side of A4 and should be laid out neatly: that doesn’t mean making the font and margins tiny so you can cram in as many words as possible.
  • Make a good first impression: To your potential boss the cover letter is just a piece of paper, not a deep understanding of you as a person. It is not the time to be funny, cheeky or sarcastic.
  • Check spelling and grammar: The most basic no-no in a cover letter is spelling and grammatical errors. Double check everything and, if you can, have someone else proof read it for you.
  • Know what the job involves: If the job ad is not specific, do some online research or call up the company and ask one or two carefully worded questions about the role. Alternatively, contact someone who already does the job about their day-to-day responsibilities.
  • Show keenness to learn: An employer looking to recruit someone who is new to the workplace will not expect highly qualified applicants. However, they do want someone they think they can train quickly and efficiently who will absorb everything they are told.
  • Put a name on it: Most job ads will include a name. Be sure not to be over-familiar. If that person is listed as John Smith, address your letter to Mr Smith, not John. If it is Jane Smith try to find out if they are a Miss or Mrs. Most companies have a reception desk or someone who is junior to the boss answering the phone and they will usually tell you if you ask.
  • Sign off: End on the right note. If you have used a person’s name you should end the letter ‘Yours sincerely’, if you have said Sir or Madam end it ‘Yours faithfully’.