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How to write a cover letter

Writing a classy cover letter.

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. In fact, some say that a cover letter is even more important than a CV, because it increases the chances of an employer actually reading your CV. A good cover letter can seal the deal and make an employer want to interview you. It is essentially your first introduction to a potential employer, so it needs attention!

Why is a cover letter important?

  • First impressions count. If your cover letter is filled with spelling and grammatical errors, you can pretty much forget about getting an interview.
  • 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.
  • A good cover letter 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 tailor a great cover letter:

  • Tailor each cover letter to each job. So 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Keep it short and sweet. The cover letter should be brief and to the point. You shouldn't ramble on for three pages.
  • If you really want to stand out, you could always make a video cover letter. This is definitely unique and attention grabbing.
  • 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.
  • Check and re-check. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes. Cover letters with spelling and grammatical mistakes will make it look like you've a poor attention to detail and so a potential employer may not bother to read your CV. And spell check doesn't pick up everything so don't count on it to re-read for you!

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

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Published March 10th, 2013
Last updated March 30th, 2017
Tags work jobs cover letter
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