Writing a cover letter

In today's electronic age it is easy to forget the basic courtesies of applying for a job.  Emailed applications should be treated no differently to postal applications and the importance of writing cover letters for resumes should never be under-estimated.

The cover letter can be described as the trailer to the main feature and its main function is to get your CV read (find out how to write a CV).  It is a chance to make personal contact and provide a link between yourself and the position for which you are applying.

 

The following checklist should help:

  • Mention three points that highlight your specific expertise in the area relevant to the job. Then mention three points explaining how your achievements show that you can add value to the company.
  • Avoid making the letter too long. Four short paragraphs should be sufficient for you to make your point succinctly.
  • Make sure all your contact details are available and if you are due to go away on holiday make sure you include that too.
  • Try to avoid flowery language and too much use of the word I, especially at the beginning of paragraphs.
  • Focus on the company's requirements rather than your own.
  • Structure the letter into four parts.  The opening paragraph should tell the employer who you are and what you want; the second paragraph outlines what you have to offer and emphasises any specific relevant experience or skills; the third paragraph explains to the employer why you would be of value and the closing paragraph should state clearly when you are available for interview.
  • Always tailor the letter to the job for which you are applying. A covering letter to a bank is unlikely to be the same as one to a media production company where you may have more scope for creativity.
  • Keep it concise - if you elaborate too much you lose the effect.  The content needs to grab the reader’s attention quickly and be distinguishable from other applications.
  • Check grammar and spelling meticulously. Sloppy spelling will get your application straight onto the reject pile.
  • Always write to a named individual, and again check and double check the spelling.

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