Updated: Apr 2
The cover letter is a key part of the recruitment process and integral to landing an interview. Candidates who fail to attach one with their CV miss out on the opportunity and fall short in progressing to the next stage. Writing a strong cover letter can boost your opportunities and make you stand out. With that, here are our top 10 tips for writing cover letters.
Use the opportunity
When you have the choice of sending in a cover letter, you should always take the opportunity assuming other candidates will be doing exactly that. This in a formal opportunity to present who you are and provide your contact details to the employer. Moreover, it allows you to explain why you are right for the role and show your interest in the company.
Don’t re-write your CV
A big mistake that should be avoided. A cover letter is a more concisely tailored document which provides highlights from your CV. You can expand on meaningful information to provide specific insights for your employer. Use stats and experiences that focus on your strengths and achievements.
Start and finish strong
Begin your cover letter by selling your skills and experiences and affirm what makes you a strong candidate for the position. If you don't have relevant work experience, use your coursework and group projects to draw examples from. Extra-curricular activities can also be mentioned but be sure to stay relevant. Finish your cover letter with a call to action. Politely suggest a further opportunity to discuss your candidacy and thank them for their time and consideration.
Talk about the company
Research the company you are applying for, use their official website to find information. Detail what impresses you about the specific role responsibilities and the company in general. Remember to focus on what you can bring to the role and not what the company can do for you. Companies are interested in the contribution you can make to the role, so focus on this in your letter.
Be specific and avoid clichés
Select 3-5 qualities from your CV that the employer is looking for in the job description. Highlight them in your cover letter briefly, e.g. using stats rather than a full explanation and ensure you provide specific examples. Avoid using clichés such as ‘Outside the box thinker’ as it’s overused and less impactful. Instead, spend some time to write about relevant experiences that bring out qualities the company is seeking and demonstrates how you’re a good fit for the role.
Understand your audience
You are presenting this document to an employer and should write accordingly. Do not be too casual, keep it professional with come across as personable. Display your motivation and enthusiasm for the role and use action verbs when explaining your skills. Use words such analysed, collaborative, motivated and avoid passive verbs.
Relevant and Concise
A cover letter is the first opportunity to illustrate your communication skills. Use it to capture the reader’s attention on specific reasons why you are the best fit for the company and role. It should be no longer than 1 page and up to 4 paragraphs at most. Keep it concise and compelling.
Always try to attain the job recruiter’s name, contact the company directly or the hiring agency for this information. You can also check the company website for a specific name, this looks more professional than ‘To whom it may concern’. If you can’t locate a name, it's better to use ‘Dear hiring manager’.
Customise your cover letter
Although your cover letter structure will stay the same, it's essential to customise this document for each application and reflect the specific company culture in your letter. Create 1 or 2 templates for your cover letter and have key phrases and examples of experiences already typed out, this helps to swap out content depending on the type of role.
The finer points
There is no excuse for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, if you can avoid them, it will help you stand out. Take some time away from writing and come back with fresh eyes. Then, re-read your document and make any necessary edits, you can have someone else proofread your work.
Re-read the job description
Before sending any documents, read the job description and all supporting documents. You may be required to send in a writing sample, portfolio of work and etc. This helps avoid missing out any instructions which could hinder your opportunity.
Next, get more tips on how to get your dream job using How to Write a Cover Letter: Complete Guide and use the Example on a Good CV: Expert Guidance to ensure you have a professional and competitive CV.