How to write a good cover letter
Published: 09 Mar 2018
Facing a blank page can be daunting, but fear not. Writing a good cover letter is easy if you know how. And it can persuade an employer to invite you for an interview, rather than put your application on the slush pile.
What is the importance of a cover letter?
The point of a cover letter is to explain why the company should choose you. So think of it like your very own ad: you’ll want to make a great first impression and stand out from the crowd.
To do that, you need to show you understand both the employer and the role they’ve advertised, and highlight whichever of your skills they’ll find most impressive.
Not every company will ask for a cover letter, but always write one (unless they’ve explicitly asked you not to).
Our three top tips for writing a cover letter
At the very least, make sure you do these things.
- Mould it to the job
You need to show you understand this specific job, and that you’re the ideal candidate to do it. So a generic mass-mailer won’t do the trick.
- use the job ad or spec as your brief, showing how your skills and experience fit
- read the company’s news pages or blog to see what they’re concerned about, then highlight stories from your own career that address the same issues
- find out the hiring manager’s name and use it. LinkedIn is your friend here, or you can give the company a ring and ask. Starting with a generic ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ makes your letter seem generic from the get-go, which is never a good look.
- Keep it snappy
As a rule of thumb, your cover letter should be anywhere from two to four paragraphs long.
Some very busy hiring manager will be looking at it alongside countless others, so make their life a little easier by getting straight to the point and cutting any waffle.
3. Be a chameleon
If the company’s got a unique tone of voice, mimic it. Whether that’s young and fun, or more grown up. You’ll show you’ve got empathy and that you’d be a good cultural fit.
How to structure your cover letter
Here’s some guidance to help you out.
Your full name, address, phone number, email and relevant social media handles (e.g. LinkedIn).
Write ‘Dear [Name]’, using the hiring manager’s name.
The main body:
Start with why you’re the ideal candidate (without just saying ‘I’m the ideal candidate’). That means highlighting your most relevant skills and experience.
Then show you know the company you’re applying for. An opinion or two on topics that interest them wouldn’t go amiss.
Thank them for reading.
Use ‘Yours faithfully’ if you addressed the letter ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, or even just ‘Best Regard’ or ‘Thanks’.
Write your name at the bottom. If you’re sending it in the post, sign it too.
What's a good cover letter template
Here’s an example cover letter we made earlier. Fill in the blanks and it’s good to go.
[Social media channels]
I’m writing to apply for the role of [job title], advertised [where you found the job ad].
With [number] years of experience as a [current/last job title] - OR - After studying [degree title] at [university], I have [talk about the most relevant experience and skills you used in the role/degree and your major accomplishments].
[Mention how your skills and experience make you the perfect fit for the role, using keywords taken from the ad].
[Talk about your interest in the company: mention big clients, latest news or company history].
[Summarise why your skills and experience make you the perfect match for this role].
Thank you for taking the time to read my application. I look forward to hearing from you.
Find that dream career
Now you know how to write a cover letter, it’s time to get applying. You’ll want to brush up on your interview questions too.
Happy job hunting.