A cover letter allows you to express your particular interest in a job and organisation. In turn this will highlight your main skills and attributes that match the criteria required for the role. It also allows you to explain why you are interested in the role, detail your enthusiasm for the job and the company, plus demonstrate how you feel you would make a contribution. A cover letter is an additional means of demonstrating your ability, skills and interest to a prospective employer.
Cover Letter Tips:
Make sure your cover letter is legible – it should be typed where possible and checked for spelling and/or grammatical mistakes.
Don’t re-write your CV in your cover letter. You should highlight your specific skills and experience that are relevant to the role you are applying for.
Keep it short and simple – don’t over-use complicated vocabulary, and don’t go over one page.
Check for accuracy – have you addressed the correct person? Is your letter specific to the job you are applying for? Utilise words/phrases used in the job description when you can.
How to Write a Cover Letter:
The content of your cover letter will really depend on the type of job to which you are applying, whether it is a response to an advert or a speculative letter (i.e. when the employer hasn't advertised a specific job). This can then be used as a template for future applications.
Cover Letter Writing tips:
Make sure your cover letter is legible. Unless otherwise requested, you should type your letter.
Keep a copy of your cover letter - you'll need it to prepare for the interview you'll (hopefully) be invited to.
It is your responsibility to follow up your letter with a phone call within a few days - especially when you're contacting an employer on a speculative basis. This demonstrates that you're the sort of enthusiastic self-starter most employers want.
Limit the length of your letter to one page, as employers don't have time to read more. Present your information in a way that's easy to understand. Use short paragraphs to present your information. It is just as acceptable to use bullet points instead, or other methods of highlighting the criteria of most interest to the employer.
How to Structure your Cover Letter:
Addresses, Date, Greeting and Title
A cover letter needs to be structured the same way as a professional letter with your name and address at the top right hand corner of the page and place the address of the company that you are applying to below this on the left hand side of the page.
Place the date below the address on the left hand side but before the greeting.
It's a good idea to include a title for your cover letter, so that a busy reader knows at a glance what your letter concerns - underline your title or begin it with 'Re.' (short for 'Regarding'), and include the job reference number (if there is one).
It is worthwhile finding out the full name of the right person to address your letter to, rather than using the greeting 'Dear Sir/Madam'.
In this first paragraph, introduce yourself and clearly explain your interest in the role you are seeking.
Pretend you're talking to the employer directly.
How would you introduce yourself?
How would you summarise your reason for writing?
What about the job you want?
Avoid using long words and complicated phrases.
Keep your sentences simple and try to avoid over-complicated language.
Here you need to demonstrate that:
Your knowledge, skills and experience meet the selection criteria for the job.
You understand the employer's expectations of people who work for them.
You can make a significant contribution to the organisation.
You have done your research on the company.
This section allows you to impress upon the employer why it is that you would like to work for them. This is a critical portion of your cover letter and dictates how impressed the employer is by your written application. You have to present yourself in the best possible light, without exaggerating.
Last Paragraph and Sign-off
This paragraph is your opportunity to express your interest in meeting with the employer for an interview.
Reiterate your contact details and your enthusiasm and interest in the role.
It is also a good idea to outline your interview availability before thanking the employer.
Finally, print your name on the letter and sign it.
Following Up on Your Application
Following up on your application with a phone call may be the key to securing an interview. By making contact with the employer again, you will let them know that you are still interested in the position; you will demonstrate that you have the initiative to make the call; and you might also find out the status of your application.