Guide to Writing a Cover Letter Successfully
When writing a cover letter you need to take into account that many employers and recruitment professionals see hundreds of them. Too short and a cover letter will come across as rushed. On the other hand an overly long cover letter drives would-be employers crazy as they want to get on with reading your CV.
How do you get the balance right?
- Find the right length. If your cover letter runs over a single page, then you should seriously consider cutting it down. If you keep it too short, then you might have forgotten to include some vital information. Two or three concise paragraphs at the most are generally considered the ideal length for a truly successful cover letter.
- Keep it fresh. Keep each cover letter you write up to date. You don't need to rewrite from scratch each time, but each letter should have some personal touch which communicates that you are serious about the particular job on offer.
- Address correctly. A cover letter should be addressed properly and to the right person. Check what the application says and ensure that you begin with the right name.
- Be concise. Although a cover letter is a chance to highlight key points which you might want to draw out from your CV, keep such communications brief and to the point. A cover letter should not repeat what can be found in the CV, but it can summarise key points.
- Be formal. A fully formal letter mean signing it off correctly even if you know the person you are writing to. It also means you should add both your address and that of the company you are applying to.
- Tailor each letter. As well as being personalised, all cover letters must be tailored to the sector or company you are applying to work for. Don't highlight things which are not relevant to the position just because your cover letter template was written for another sort of employer.
- Remember the details. Once your cover letter is composed, make sure you have included all the essentials. This includes the date, any job reference number that might be needed, your telephone number and your email address – even if you are emailing your application.
- Avoid clichés. You may be 'hard working' or 'diligent', but these are things everyone tends to say. Try to find a unique way of expressing yourself or leave out such self-description all together.
- End positively. Before you sign off, add a simple sentence which says something upbeat. For instance, you could say how much you look forward to finding out more about the role or that you welcome a positive response.
- Check it. After writing your letter, get on with another task and come back to it. This will help you to proofread it better and to pick out typographical errors and spelling mistakes more effectively.
When your cover letter is finished, it should be ready to attach to your CV and send off.