Creating a convincing cover letter

A covering letter allows you to expand on your CV and show why you are the best candidate for the job. Your CV demonstrates your education, qualifications and experience but your covering letter is where you can show your motivation to apply for a particular job. You can demonstrate your understanding of the employing organisation and how you connect with its ethos, values and aspirations.

If you’re speculatively applying for a role with a company outside a recruitment cycle, a well written and tailored covering letter could make all the difference in whether they consider your application. Here are some tips for creating a convincing cover letter:

Be personal
Write directly to the person who will be reviewing the applications for the role and address the letter to them. If you don’t know who to write to, call the company and ask for the name of the person who deals with recruitment. Not only will this make sure that the right person receives your application, it also gives you a contact name for a follow up call or email.

Be professional
Try using a formal business template for your cover letter, which will show both your address and the recipient’s name and address  (unless you’re sending the letter within an email). If you are writing directly to a named person, sign off with ‘Yours sincerely’. If you are addressing the letter to an unknown person, (e.g. ‘Dear Sir/Madam) sign it off with ‘Yours faithfully’.

Think like a recruiter
Consider what the employer wants to know and what skill sets they’re looking for. Focus on what you can contribute to the organisation rather than how it can benefit you.

Keep it short

Try and keep your covering letter to one page, with short and clearly themed paragraphs. A long winding covering letter will lose the reader’s interest and the impact of your key selling points will be lost.

Check it out 
It’s vital you proofread your covering letter carefully and present it well.

What to include:

  • Briefly introduce yourself, state what role you’re applying for and where you saw the position advertised. For a speculative letter, specify what type of work you’re looking for.
  • Explain why you’re interested in this type of work, mentioning particular aspects of what the job is likely to involve.
  • Talk about why you’re interested in working for this specific employer. Demonstrate enthusiasm and evidence of your research into the employer’s successes, values and clients.
  • Emphasise all the ways in which you’re an excellent candidate for the position. Provide examples of your key strengths by linking them to experience listed on your CV. Show that your key strengths match the requirements of the employer and position.
  • Make sure to cover any anomalies in your background, for example any time gaps or any ways in which you don’t match the selection criteria. Perhaps explain how any hurdles you’ve encountered have pushed you to develop in a positive way.
  • Lastly, indicate when you are available for interview.
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