4 tips for writing the ideal cover letter

This is an opportunity to quickly introduce yourself and make an early attempt to sell yourself as the best fit for the job

A well-constructed cover letter can make your application capture the attention of a potential employer – while a generic, slapdash one could mean that your CV disappears into the deluge of average candidates, never to be read.

Unfortunately, there’s no one sure-fire way to make your application stand out, but you can maximise your chances by following these four simple cover letter tips.

Short but sweet

While your CV contains all your relevant experience and skills, a cover letter should highlight only the most pertinent points.

It’s vital to keep it concise and relevant, as potential employers tend to have many applications to work through, and simply don’t have the time to read through multiple lengthy paragraphs.

Plus, the cover letter gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your language skills, so do ensure that you’ve proofread it and checked for spelling and grammar errors.

Laying it out

Jon Gregory, a specialist in job searching, applications and interviews, suggests starting with an introduction that establishes which job you’re applying for and why you would be suitable for it. Immediately after this, Gregory recommends including a bullet-point list detailing why you should be interviewed.

Alternatively, Victoria McLean from CityCV.co.uk advises writing an introduction followed by a couple of paragraphs demonstrating how you fit the role’s requirements. According to McLean, you should then conclude this cover letter with a paragraph expressing your interest in the role and how well you match the employer’s requirements.

Even if the job advert doesn’t specify a cover letter, it’s a good idea to write the email that you attach your CV to in a cover letter style: this is an opportunity to quickly introduce yourself and make an early attempt to sell yourself as the best fit for the job.

Tone of voice

Where possible, address the letter to a specific person; if you aren’t sure who this should be, check LinkedIn or even call the company to ask for a contact name. If necessary use the formal ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, though be aware this may not be suitable for all companies.

If you want to maintain a sense of your own personality, you could write with a more conversational tone, but make sure not to be overly colloquial. Equally, if you don’t want to sound too formal, Lis McGuire from Giraffe CV suggests reading the cover letter out loud so you can spot any phrases that sound too stiff.

Do your homework

Research the potential employer and use that knowledge when constructing your letter. As Rachel Gowers, people and culture manager at TruRating explains, employers find it encouraging to read an application from someone who knows the company and can explain exactly why they would be a good fit.

While the recruitment process is a two-sided one, remember that at this stage it’s all about the organisation and how you can meet their needs. Don’t be tempted to send the same generic cover letter to every company you’re applying to – every cover letter should be written specifically for the job you’re applying for.

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The British Institute of Recruiters is the Professional Body operating The Recruitment Certification Scheme

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