8 Amazing Tips on Writing A Cover Letter!

  | James Innes

A well-written cover letter can often be the difference between an interviewer reading your CV or rejecting it out of hand. Nearly 50% of all recruiters, according to a survey cited by James Innes in The Cover Letter Book, regard the cover letter as important as the CV. Yet they are often neglected or receive far less attention by candidates.

A cover letter is the ideal opportunity to succinctly summarise the skills and experience highlighted in your CV, whilst also giving you more freedom to express your personality. It can emphasise your strengths and downplay any weaknesses or gaps in experience you may have. In effect a good cover letter is an invitation to read your CV and find out more about you; a bad one can stop the hiring process dead in its tracks.

Whilst cover letters fall into two broad categories – speculative and advert-response – there are common features that make for a successful letter.

1)      Make Sure you reach the Right Person

While it can take some research, especially in the case of a speculative letter, the best person to address the letter to is the person who will decide whether to interview you or not.

2)      Establish your Audience

Determine your audience so that you can phrase your letter appropriately.

There are three main categories of reader for a job application: HR personnel, managers/directors and specialist external recruiters. Each type of reader has different motivations when reading a cover letter. An HR professional will be trained to select best matches between the candidate and the profile established for the vacant role. A manager or director will be looking for somebody they want to work with – somebody who can make a contribution to their team. And an external recruitment consultant will be looking for somebody they can sell to their client.  

3)      Include your Personal Details

A proper cover letter begins with a letterhead which includes all your relevant details – name, address, telephone number and email address.

4)      Pay Attention to the Basics

As with any professional document, make sure the basics are addressed. Pay attention to spelling, typos and punctuation as these can be your undoing. Never send any document until you have run a spell checker first.

Pay attention to spacing and layout and ensure an appropriate type face is used, perhaps one that is consistent with your CV.

The cover letter should be dated, with your name should be clearly stated at the end.


5)      Grab Their Attention Immediately

Cut to the chase! Your opening paragraph should tell them what you want, what you are offering and why that should be of interest to them.

6)      Maintain the Reader’s Interest

The central paragraphs of your letter should be used to explain what you have to offer, giving concrete examples where possible, and referencing your CV.  This should include your key selling points, and how these meet their needs. If at all possible, indicate you have an understanding of their particular company or organisation, and the challenges they face.

7)      Sign-Off: Your Call to Action

The final paragraph should be upbeat and positive, and whilst not being too pushy or arrogant, suggest why arranging a meeting with you would be in their interest, as well as yours!

8)      Keep it Brief

A cover letter should be no more than one page long. Any longer and it just won’t get read. So make it short, punchy and to the point.

A good cover letter can be the difference between getting an interview or being relegated to the also rans. Yet it seldom gets the time or attention devoted to a CV. Candidates uncertain about their ability to craft a suitably powerful cover letter should follow the tips above. Alternatively, they could use the services of a cv writing service such as The CV Centre who employ professional writers skilled at writing powerful and effective cover letters.

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