Top tips for writing an effective cover letter
The name game: Always write to a specific individual – avoiding addressing covering letters to Dear ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’. Use ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’, ‘Miss’ or ‘Ms’ and then the surname of your contact. Never use their first name. Try to look for this information ahead of writing to the company using LinkedIn or the company webpage.
Careful consideration: Tailor your letters to each application – don’t mass produce them. You will undoubtedly get more interviews by sending out a small number of well-written cover letters, than by sending out many poorly written ones.
Size matters: Keep things concise – three or four brief paragraphs is fine. A covering letter should be a maximum of one A4 page.
Writing your cover letter
You can use the job advert itself to guide you. Underline the skills in the advert and start writing your letter and include the skills you underlined. Be positive and emphasise why you are perfect for the job. Always include any relevant experience.
- Give a summary of your skills and experience. Keep it brief and to the point.
- Remember to include your name, address, phone number, the date, and enclose or attach a copy of your CV.
How to say it:
- Always try to find out the name of the person you need to write it to. It looks a lot more professional and shows you have made the effort to find out their name.
- If you do start a letter with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, end with ‘yours faithfully’. If you start with the person’s name (for example, ‘Dear Mrs Smith’) end with ‘yours sincerely’. Finally double-check your spelling and grammar before sending the letter, by using your spell check or by asking a friend or relative to read it.
- Include the job offer reference number if there is one in the job detail. Enter it below the opening line. For example:
“Dear Mr/Mrs [Surname]
Re: Job reference 345”
What to say:
- Be clear and concise. Don’t use a long word if a short one will do.
- If you have been looking for a job for a while, say how you spend your spare time (for example, by doing voluntary work, work experience or study). Be honest and keep to the facts.
How the letter looks:
- It is always better to type a letter but if this is not possible, make sure your handwriting is neat. Leave plenty of space around the edge and clear space between each paragraph. Use good quality plain paper and envelopes.
- Sign the letter and print your name underneath to make sure it can be read easily. Ask a friend or relative to check over your letter before you send it.
- Make sure your application arrives on time. If your application is too late, the company might not even consider it and your time will have been wasted.