Cover letters can be a crucial start to your relationship with your prospective employer.
Today I’m going to discuss the basics of the cover letter: what are they, when do you need one, and how do you construct one?
- What is a cover letter? It’s a letter that enables you to show the company you are applying to why you are applying and why the company should employ you – highlighting a few things that are relevant in your CV. Don’t underestimate the cover letter. Yes, your CV is the thing that will ultimately get you the interview, but your covering letter or the email that you send with your CV is the thing that will encourage someone to actually read your CV.
- In this day and age, do you really need a cover letter? I would say yes, you do – even if it’s not going to be read. Personally, I don’t often read cover letters in detail, but I always give those CVs which are accompanied by a decent email or a cover letter more attention than those that aren’t. I also know of many recruiters who will read most cover letters and only look at CVs that come with cover letters, so it’s always best to cover your bases.
Now let’s take a look at how to construct a cover letter. There are a few things you need to remember:
- Keep it short: You cover letter should never be more than a page, ideally four or five paragraphs.
- Format it as a letter: Don’t forget that it is actually a letter, so it should have your name, address, the date, your telephone number and your email in it. You have to make it easy for a company to contact you, and although your CV will have these details it never hurts to put them in the cover letter too.
- Address your letter personally: It’s always best to address your letter to someone personally, so if the person’s name is in the details of the advert please use it. And, as an aside, if you are addressing a letter to a person end the letter with ‘Yours sincerely’; while if you’re addressing your letter to an unnamed ‘Sir or Madam’ then sign off with ‘Yours faithfully’.
- The first paragraph: In the first paragraph of your letter you should tell the company which job you are applying for, give the job reference number if there is one, and tell the company how you found out about the job. If someone in contact with the company has pointed the job out to you, then mention this here – but only after receiving their permission to do so. This paragraph should also inform the company when you can start and how long your notice period is.
- The second paragraph: The next paragraph should cover why you are interested in the company and specific job that you are applying for, and why you think you would be good for the job. Do this by highlighting skills and experience that you have which matches the information in the job description.
- The final paragraph: In the final paragraph, tell the company how much you would value a personal interview, any dates on which you are unavailable for an interview, and finish by saying how much you look forward to hearing from them.
That’s the essence of a cover letter. Next time I’ll continue looking at the cover letter in more detail.