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How to write a killer covering letter

Once your CV is as polished as it can be, your next stop will be to write a killer covering letter or email. This should complement your CV and help to highlight your experience to the reader in a way that is relevant to the position you’re seeking.

Everyone needs one, from recruiters to companies you’re applying to directly, and often it’s the cover letter that hooks the reader in and helps to shine a light on your CV.  If it appears it’s optional, always provide one.

It’s not always right or fair, but often the cover letter is what will get your CV noticed. This is your chance to show that you’re really keen and ambitious – whether that’s about a role you’ve seen or a company you’d like to work for.

Here are top tips for writing cover letters and emails…

Think who you’re writing to

When you write anything, always think of the intended recipient. When it comes to recruitment, they will have a problem to solve and you want to be their answer. Introduce yourself but make sure you reflect the business needs of the people you’re writing to. Try to inject energy and enthusiasm into the cover letter to help bring it – and you – to life.    

Talk about yourself and pause

Yes, you should talk about how many years’ experience you have and in what discipline or area. But you don’t want to be too ‘me, me, me’, as this ignores the bigger business picture. Look at your language. How many times have you used the word ‘you’? For example, “I would like to use my experience to help bring your business to the next level” is preferable to “I have lots of experience and a wide range of skills to offer”.

Three areas to cover

Firstly, your cover letter should introduce who you are and what you have to offer. Secondly, it should reflect an understanding of the role or opportunity you’re seeking or applying for. Thirdly, it should sign off confidently with a clear call to action. For example, “I look forward to hearing from you about the [type of] role.”

Read it aloud

The top tip for anyone wanting to write clear, concise copy is to read their cover letter out loud. Do this and you’ll soon see where the errors are and where the language sounds forced and not quite right. If you stumble on a sentence, it might be worth having a look to see how you can improve it. 

Be clear and concise

If your covering letter looks crowded or too long, it’s time to think again. Keep your sentences short – if they run over two lines, the chances are you need to break it down into two separate sentences. Separate your text out with frequent paragraphs and edit everything you write at least once.

When a cover letter isn’t required

Sometimes a job advert doesn’t allow room for a covering letter to be supplied. Application forms can often take the place of cover letters. All the same rules apply, you just have to format it into the boxes on the form. There is usually a box asking, ‘why are you interested in this position?’ or ‘what do you feel you could bring to the role?’. This is the place to use the advice above.

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3 min read