How to write a cover letter
Covering letters are an important part of any job application. A well thought out and researched cover letter can be the difference between you being invited for an interview over another candidate. Read our advice and tips below on how to write a good covering letter.
What to include in a cover letter
Qualifications, skills, experience, achievements, all matched to the job title you are applying for. Try to use the same keywords that are mentioned in the job advert and job description.
Cover letter layout
Make sure your covering letter is clearly laid out, with your contact details at the top right, the Hiring Manager’s name and address to the left, the date, and the name of your recipient ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss [Name]’ or if you don’t know the name then simply ‘Sir/Madam’ or ‘Hiring Manager’. Ensure there are no typos and that you use correct grammar and paragraphs. Consider the use of bullet points, as these make an impact whilst remaining brief and easy to read.
How long should a cover letter be?
Your cover letter should be concise, so it is recommended that it doesn’t exceed one page of A4 in a common font type that is easy to read.
How to start a cover letter
This section should clearly state why you are writing the cover letter. Include the job title you are applying for and how you found out about the position. It also helps the Hiring Manager if you include the job reference number, if one has been provided. Keep this opening paragraph concise (no longer than three sentences). If you aren’t applying for a specific position that has been advertised, then clearly and concisely set out who you are, your experience, why you are speculatively sending your CV, and what type of position you would be looking for.
How to end a cover letter
This is the last thing that the Hiring Manager reads, so is important you try to close the cover letter and gain an interview. Be confident and let the reader know why you would be a good fit, and state how you would welcome the opportunity of an interview.
Cover letter tips
- Hiring Managers have limited time as they receive many applications for each position they advertise. Make sure your covering letter is concise, easy to read, and makes them remember you (in a professional way).
- Always include a cover letter – don’t be tempted to apply without a covering letter, unless a job advert specifically advises you not to include one. Even if the Hiring Manager doesn’t have time to read every cover letter initially, they may if you are shortlisted, or may even revisit the cover letters at a later stage in the recruitment process.
- Don’t use a generic cover letter. You want to tailor each covering letter to both the company and position you are applying for. This includes highlighting any experience and skills that are specifically relevant to the position.
- Highlight your achievements that are relevant to the position. Try to use tangible numbers, for example ‘improved efficiencies in XYZ project by 20%’.
- Make sure you research both the company and the position and then tailor your covering letter accordingly.
- Don’t just replicate your CV. Your covering letter should highlight key skills, responsibilities and achievements, but shouldn’t just be a copy of your CV.
- Remain positive. Don’t draw upon any weaknesses you feel you may have relating to the role. The covering letter is the opportunity to sell yourself and gain an interview, so always keep an upbeat tone.
- A good cover letter can grab a hiring manager's attention, but the most important part is your CV. Read our advice on how to write a CV.