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How do I write a cover letter?

Your cover letter is the first impression you make on potential employers

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in employment

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A cover letter is an important part of a job application. A cover letter can be even more important than a CV, because it increases the chances of an employer actually reading your CV. A good cover letter can impress and make an employer want to interview you. 

Why is a cover letter important?

If your cover letter is well put together it will show a potential employer that you are serious about the job that you are applying for. It is the first impression that you will make on them so it is important to ensure that there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors

A good cover letter can make you stand out from the crowd. If yours is engaging, you have a much higher chance of getting your CV read and thus getting an interview. It  also increases your chances of the employer bothering to read the CV. The employer is likely to have a desk filled with applicants, so a good cover letter makes your application much more appealing.

How to create a great cover letter

Make each one original

Tailor each cover letter to each job. Don't use the same cover letter for an IT job as your friend did for their teaching job. Both jobs require completely different skills. Remember that a cover letter should be brief and to the point and never longer than a page.

Read the job description and reply to it

Use words and phrases that were listed in the job advertisement. For example, if the job is asking for someone with experience of Adobe or Dreamweaver, make sure your cover letter states that you are experienced at using these programmes.

Use language that demonstrates what you can do for the company, for example, "My skills as a graphic designer have resulted in several awards and an increase in website traffic at the website I worked on".

Try to demonstrate that you have knowledge of the company you want to work for. This shows that you have bothered to research them, which demonstrates enthusiasm. Employers love enthusiastic employees. Try to address cover letters to the actual hiring manager rather than "To whom it concerns". Again, this demonstrates that you have bothered to do your research.

Sell yourself

Be as specific as possible. Outline the specific reasons why you meet all the job specifications listed in the advertisement.

Try not to be intimidated by the job descriptions; most candidates won't fit all requirements, just some of them. So emphasise what you do have to offer and how keen you are on that company. If you really want to stand out, you could always make a video cover letter. This is definitely unique and attention grabbing.

Style of letter

If you are emailing the cover letter, try to send it as a PDF rather than as a word document. This is because Word files sometimes can’t be opened if the company does not have a compatible version of Word. Plus, believe it or not, not every company has Word.

Don't forget to check out our sample cover letter and ideas for alternative cover letters

Need more information?

Talk through your own situation or get another point of view. Our online chat service for 16 to 25 year olds is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm.

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Published March 10th2013
Tags work jobs cover letter
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