If you’re a job seeker, creating a cover letter is often a key part of the job application process. But it can also be a tricky task. How long should your letter be, how should you structure it and what should you include?
Fortunately, the CoursesOnline team is here to help you craft a cover letter that stands out from the rest. Read on, as we guide you through the process.
Why Do Employers Ask for Cover Letters?
When it comes to communicating facts such as academic achievements, your CV does a great job. But your cover letter gives you the chance to show employers exactly why your qualifications, skills and work experience make you the ideal candidate. Take the time to craft a unique, persuasive cover letter and you’re likely to make a memorable impression on the recruiter who’s reading it.
Start with Research
Every cover letter should be tailored to a particular company and role, so you’ll need to start the process by doing some research. Firstly, try to track down the name of the person who will be reading your letter, so that you can personalise your greeting. If this isn’t mentioned in the job advert, you should find it by visiting the company’s website or checking out their employees’ LinkedIn profiles.
Once you’ve found your name, take some time to research the company you want to work for. Check out their latest news, their blog and their social media channels. Learn about their future aims, their competitors and their company culture.
Take Care with Presentation
To maintain your reader’s interest, it’s essential to produce a letter that’s easy on the eye, so we recommend including plenty of white space. Stick to short paragraphs with a blank line between them and you’ll avoid creating an unattractive wall of words. You could also break up the text by adding bullet points or numbered lists.
While there are various ways to set out a letter, you should definitely include a header that includes your name and your contact information, plus a link to your portfolio or website if relevant. If you’re sending a hard copy you should also add the company’s contact details.
The Opening Paragraph
Introductory paragraphs usually include basic details including who you are, where you saw the job advertised and why you want the job. Adding a compliment always makes a good impression and you could also give a concise overview of why you think you’re the right candidate.
Hopefully, your research will have revealed the name of the person you’re addressing. But if not, it’s best to stick to formal greetings such as ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or ‘Dear hiring manager’.
In your second paragraph, you need to convince the recruiter that you’re a great fit for the role on offer. Matching your skills and experience to the job description is the best way to approach this, but we suggest focusing on your most impressive and relevant skills, as you need to be concise. This way, you’ll spark curiosity but also have plenty to say if you get an interview.
To help you write the perfect paragraph, here are a few of our top tips:
Your third paragraph is about why the company is a good fit for you, so you’ll need to refer to the research you’ve already completed. Explain why you want to work for the company, how you could help them, what attracts you to their culture and why you agree with their core values. Focus on demonstrating your knowledge as well as answering these questions, and you’ll produce an impressive paragraph.
The Final Paragraph
Reminding your reader that your experience and skills make you the perfect candidate is the ideal way to begin this final paragraph. Thank the recruiter for taking the time to read your letter and say that you’ll look forward to hearing from them. Alternatively, you could be a little more proactive and tell them that you’ll follow up your letter with a call.
When it comes to signing off, if you addressed your letter to a named person you should sign off, ‘Yours sincerely’, but if you used a general greeting you can end with ‘Yours faithfully.’
You’ll spot mistakes more easily if you take a break before proofreading, so we suggest putting your letter aside for at least a few hours. When you’re ready to look at it, print a copy, grab a pen and go through each section methodically, looking for errors. Reading the text aloud or printing it out in a different font can also be useful.
Of course, you might like to road-test a few high-tech proofreading tools, in which case we recommend exploring Grammarly, a writing app that detects grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice and style mistakes. You could also use your computer’s spell-check tool, although it may not pick up contextual spelling mistakes, so we wouldn’t recommend relying on it.