The first time I ever learned about the concept of a cover letter, I distinctly remember how it was explained to me: “It’s like your resume, but longer.” The reason that moment sticks out to me so much? It’s completely wrong!
Yes, your cover letter should include some of the key skills, traits, and experience highlighted in your resume. But copying and pasting from there into your cover letter will most definitely turn recruiters off. Odds are they’ve already read your resume — why would you make them waste their time reading the same thing over again?
Cover letters are your opportunity to not only show that you have the background and knowledge needed to do the job well, but that you’re also passionate, charismatic, and well-informed. For many people, though, it’s a daunting task. With so much information to convey, where do you get started?
We’ve rounded up some of our top tips on cover letters to lay it out for you in one easy-to-follow guide. Our infographic shares a structure for you to follow, the content you need to share, and some helpful tips on style and formatting.
Take a look below, and start drafting the cover letter that will score you your dream job — happy writing!
1. Contact Info: Don’t make recruiters dig through your cover letter to find your name and contact info — include it up top so they can easily reach out.
2. Greeting: Forget “To Whom It May Concern”. If you can find it, address the recruiter/hiring manager by name.
3. Intro Paragraph:
- Relevant anecdotes, quotes, fun facts, etc. are all good ways to make your opening line stand out.
- Make it clear that you know who the company is, what they do, and what they care about.
- Mention a few roles, projects, experiences, traits, or passions that make you the ideal candidate.
- If someone at the company has referred you, this is the place to name drop them.
4. Body Paragraph(s):
- Incorporate keywords directly from the job description.
- Whenever possible, include concrete metrics that illustrate the results you’ve achieved.
5. Closing Paragraph:
Summarize, don’t plagiarize. Reaffirm your interest, passion, and qualifications from earlier in the letter, but don’t make it sound redundant.
- Cover letters should be clean and easy to read — skip the intricate designs and crazy fonts for party invitations.
- Like a resume, keep the cover letter to one page. If necessary, hyperlink your portfolio, website, or samples of your work.
- Saving your cover letter as a PDF file will ensure the formatting won’t change.
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The first thing a potential employer sees in your job application is the cover letter. This doesn't just support your CV – it's an opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd and persuade the recruiter to put you through to the next round.
Be wary of spending hours on perfecting your CV at the expense of your cover letter. If you need some inspiration on what to include and what format to use, here are our helpful guides – just remember not to copy them as exact templates.
1. Standard, conservative style
This is ideal for sectors such as business, law, accountancy and retail. For more creative sectors, a letter like this might be less appealing, and could work against you.
Dear Mr Black,
Please find enclosed my CV in application for the post advertised in the Guardian on 30 November.
The nature of my degree course has prepared me for this position. It involved a great deal of independent research, requiring initiative, self-motivation and a wide range of skills. For one course, [insert course], an understanding of the [insert sector] industry was essential. I found this subject very stimulating.
I am a fast and accurate writer, with a keen eye for detail and I should be very grateful for the opportunity to progress to market reporting. I am able to take on the responsibility of this position immediately, and have the enthusiasm and determination to ensure that I make a success of it.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this application and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
2. Standard speculative letter
This may vary according to the nature of the organisation and the industry you're applying to.
Dear Mr Brown,
I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies in your company. I enclose my CV for your information.
As you can see, I have had extensive vacation work experience in office environments, the retail sector and service industries, giving me varied skills and the ability to work with many different types of people. I believe I could fit easily into your team.
I am a conscientious person who works hard and pays attention to detail. I'm flexible, quick to pick up new skills and eager to learn from others. I also have lots of ideas and enthusiasm. I'm keen to work for a company with a great reputation and high profile like [insert company name].
I have excellent references and would be delighted to discuss any possible vacancy with you at your convenience. In case you do not have any suitable openings at the moment, I would be grateful if you would keep my CV on file for any future possibilities.
3. Letter for creative jobs
We've used the example of a copywriter but you can adapt it for your profession. The aim of a creative letter is to be original and show you have imagination, but understand what the job entails. Balance is essential: don't be too wacky, or it will turn off the reader.
Dear Ms Green,
· Confused by commas?
· Puzzled by parenthesis?
· Stumped by spelling?
· Perturbed by punctuation?
· Annoyed at the apostrophe? (And alliteration?)
Well, you're not alone. It seems that fewer and fewer people can write. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who can read. So they'll spot a gaffe from a mile off. And that means it's a false economy, unless you're 100% sure of yourself, to write your own materials. (Or to let clients do it for themselves.)
To have materials properly copywritten is, when one considers the whole process of publishing materials and the impact that the client wishes to make, a minor expense. Sloppiness loses clients, loses customers.
There is an answer. Me. Firm quotes are free. You can see some of what I do on my multilingual website at [insert web address]. If you'd like, I can get some samples out to you within 24 hours. And, if you use me, you'll have some sort of guarantee that you can sleep soundly as those tens of thousands of copies are rolling off the presses.
Luck shouldn't come into it!
With kindest regards
Other helpful resources
•How to write a perfect CV and cover letter
•Applying for jobs without experience? How to build and sell your skills
•Five steps to the perfect graduate CV
•School-leavers and graduates: how to write your first CV
•How to write a personal statement for your CV
•CV templates to fit every stage of your career
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