It is important because it is the first thing a potential recruiter sees with your application.
If your CV is a sales brochure, then your cover letter is a flyer and early advertisement for ‘Product-You’.
Use it to:
- Evidence your research – show you know who you are applying to and what you are applying for
- Grab their attention –
- Stand out from the crowd – list some key skills and achievements, evidenced ideally by relevant experience
- Why me? – demonstrate how you fit and the benefits you bring
- Read more – motivate the employer to want to read your CV
- Thank them – for considering your application & “look forward to the next step”
- Brief – they won’t have time to read it all and you risk it being a copy of your Application or CV.
- Easy to read – avoid hand-written versions unless specifically requested
- Relevant – they will only really be interested in what is relevant
A cover letter can be divided into three sections and please make time to double-check the spelling and grammar before sending it.
So how do you start it?
Instead of “Dear Sirs” at the start, try and find out who your CV is being sent to and how they should be addressed: Mrs, Miss, or Dr, for example.
Then follow this salutation by using the first paragraph to show that you have done your research and know exactly who they are and what they are advertising for. Here, for example, you could say: “Dear Mr(s) [Hiring Manager’s name], I enclose my application for the position of [named job] with [company name] starting on [date].
The opening is also a chance to mention where you heard about the opportunity, such as: “[named person known to employer] suggested that I contact you…” or “I heard about the advert when I attended your open evening last week …”.
Now tell them why should they pick you?
In the middle section, tell them very briefly why they should pick you, the benefits that you bring and how you will add value to their business, highlighting any of their specific needs that you have the skills to deliver. Grab their attention with your most relevant skills and experience.
And finish by thanking them.
In this short paragraph thank the employer (or recruiter) for considering your application , look forward to the hearing back from them and having an opportunity to meet them to discuss this in person. By now they should be interested in your application and looking forward to reading your attached CV.
And what if you need to send it electronically?
It is increasingly likely that you will be asked to either attach your CV and cover letter to an online application form – or attach both to an email – in which case all of the above still applies.
However, there are a few slight adjustments if the email itself becomes your cover letter and you attach only your CV. Emails are written slightly differently and so here are a few tips to consider:
- Send it from a smart-looking address rather than your fun email
- Still use a formal salutation (e.g. Mrs XXXX) rather than their first name unless you know them
- Make it as brief as possible: no-one wants to have to scroll down and may be put off as a result
- Use bold font sparingly, but to highlight keywords that will catch their eye – e.g. team-player
- Bulletpoints could work if you have a lot of really relevant benefits to highlight
- Show a responsible adult before sending so they can give you their initial impression
- Keep attachments small as large items can take time to receive and could fill their inbox
- Consider the best time of day to send it based on your knowledge of the business activities
Under the Tips section at the bottom of the page, there are relevant headings such as Applications and CV whilst under the Help section, there are topics such as Careers Advice & Guidance Online. We also frequently cover this topic in more detail in our blogs.
And on You Tube and the internet, why not have a look for relevant videos including those by some of the major employers.
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