Behind every CV is a good cover letter…

A cover letter is an essential part of almost every job application. Not only do you have to make sure it sells your skills and abilities to recruiters, you also need to do it a clear and concise manner – that ultimately persuades the reader to want to meet you.

We’ve already covered what a cover letter is, but here’s our step-by-step guide to help you get started on writing one:

Do your research

First things first, you need to do your research.

Take some time to look into the role you’re applying for and the company – and use this information to tailor your cover letter accordingly.

Here are a few key things you should find out before you start writing:

  • What does the company do?
  • Who are their competitors?
  • Who are their target audience?
  • What does the role involve?
  • What are the essential skills?

Once you’ve found answers to these questions, you’ll be able to make it clear in your cover letter how your skills and abilities match up with what the employer is looking for.

Not only will doing research give you the knowledge you need to tailor your cover letter and CV to the style of the company, it also demonstrates that you’ve got a real interest in the specific role and company.


How to format a cover letter

Your cover letter should be well-presented, concise, and to-the-point.

So use an easy-to-read font, and don’t get carried away with embellishments. No pictures, no Comic Sans, and definitely no word art necessary.

Aside from ensuring its written using clear paragraphs – it also should be the right length. Too long, and you’ll risk rambling (and/or boring the recruiter); but too short, and you’re unlikely to have covered everything.

Aim for half a side of A4 (or one page maximum), and you’ll be on the right track.

 

How to address a cover letter

Cover letters should be addressed to the person dealing with the applications.

Usually, this will be shown somewhere in the job advert – and if not, don’t be afraid to find out. Start by visiting the company’s website to track down the name of a relevant recipient, and if you have no luck there – there’s no harm in simply calling and asking.

Not only will you be able to address your letter accurately, you’ll also demonstrate your initiative and genuine interest in the role.

If you manage to find a name – address with ‘Dear Mr Smith/Dear Ms Jones’.

And if you don’t? ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ will suffice.

 

How to structure a cover letter

Although there are no set rules on how your cover letter should be structured, making sure it flows well is vital if you want to impress recruiters.

Here’s a rough guideline of how your cover letter should look:

 

Opening the letter – Why are you getting in touch?

The opening paragraph should be short and to the point, explaining why you’re getting in touch. It’s also useful to include where you found the ad i.e. as advertised on reed.co.uk. If someone referred you, mention their name in this section.

Example: I wish to apply for the role of IT Manager, currently being advertised on reed.co.uk. Please find enclosed my CV for your consideration.

 

Second paragraph – Why are you suitable for the job?

Briefly describe your professional and academic qualifications that are relevant to the role and ensure you refer to each of the skills listed in the job description.

Example: As you can see from my attached CV, I have over three years’ experience in the IT Industry, and I believe the knowledge and skills built up during this time make me the perfect candidate for the role.

 

Third paragraph – What can you do for the company?

Now’s your opportunity to emphasise what you can do for the company. Outline your career goals (making it relevant to the position you’re applying for) and expand on pertinent points in your CV – including examples to back up your skills.

Example: In my current role as Senior Marketing Executive at Software Company X Ltd, I have been responsible for increasing incoming client enquiries for our B2B product lines by 156% in under 12 months, which helped the business increase its revenue by 55% year-on-year.

 

Fourth paragraph – Reiterate

Here’s where you reiterate your interest in the role and why you would be the right fit for the role. It’s also a good time to indicate you’d like to meet with the employer for an interview.

Example: 
I am confident that I can bring this level of success with me to your company and help IT Company LTD build upon their reputation as one the UK’s fastest-growing software houses. With my previous experience and expertise, I believe I can start actively contributing to the business as soon as possible.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to meeting with you to discuss my application further.

 

Closing the letter

Sign off your cover letter with ‘Yours sincerely’ (if you know the name of the hiring manager), or ‘Yours faithfully’ (if you don’t), followed by your name.

Reed Career Advice

Stand Out: A cover letter will set you apart from other applicants

Stand Out: A cover letter will set you apart from other applicants

It can often take a long time to get together a really good CV. A lot of work and effort goes into getting your CV just right and then you find out, you need a cover letter too. ‘Do I really need a cover letter?’

Bottom line is yes. You really do need a cover letter. Military leaver, top company executive, student graduate, everyone should have a suitable cover letter when applying for any position and here is why.

A friend of mine is leaving her current position and working her four week notice period. Her employer asked if she could advertise the position online to allow them time to interview and have a replacement for her departure. The position was posted online at 10am on Wednesday morning, over the next two days she received 120 applications by email alone. This is why you need a cover letter.  Employers often have several hundred CV applicants to go through and of those you have to stand out. Perhaps they should spend an equal amount of time going through each but they don’t.

Sitting starting at a pile of CV’s what stands out? A direct cover letter telling the employer exactly why you are the employee they need to have in their company. The cover letter will get your CV noticed and without it you are just another piece of paper in a pile of CV’s.

So what is a cover letter?

A cover letter is your first interaction with the potential employer and gives you the opportunity to explain why you are applying for the job and why you are the right candidate for the job.

How do you write one?

When you start to put together your cover letter answering two questions will give you a clear idea of what you need to say: What does the employer want to hear? and what do I want my cover letter to say about me?

Your cover letter should ideally be addressed to a named person. This makes it a lot more personal. This can be difficult if perhaps there was no named given of who would be dealing with recruitment though this can be solved through a simple call to the company. If you really run into difficulty with this then a simple, Dear Sir or Madam, is suitable.

You should then move onto which role you wish to apply for, how or where you heard about the position and letting them know you CV is attached for their consideration.

Keep your cover letter short and make sure you hit the key points;

  • Why you are applying for the job
  • Why you are the best person for the job
  • Show interest/knowledge of the company
  • Highlight things on your CV relevant to the job

And remember to always end on a positive note.

Once you have your cover letter together your CV should back up everything you have said through qualifications, experience and skills.

There are many common mistakes that people make in their cover letter so make sure you avoid;

  • Your cover letter being too long. It gets boring and in turns reflects badly on you.
  • Don’t just repeat everything from your CV. A cover letter is more conversational so make sure you pick out key qualities and skills to focus on.
  • Try not to go off point. Keep focus and direct everything to the job you are applying for.
  • As with your CV it is easier to have a cover letter template though you must make alterations if you are applying for different positions. If you have one generic cover letter you use to apply for a number of different positions it will sound hollow and a lack of effort become apparent
  • Check, check and triple check. Spelling and grammar tells a lot about a person so get someone else to read over once you believe you are finished. Sometime a fresh eye can pick up on errors you might have scanned over.

Applying for a position without a cover letter leaves out some vital answers that an employer will want to know from the start. Why are you applying? Why should we employ you?

In this difficult climate it is important that you stand out from the crowd as you never know how many people you are competing against so get practising your perfect cover letter and don’t be pushed to the side.

If you are at all unsure about your cover letter or CV then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us info@hireaherouk.org.

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