How to write a killer cover letter

It’s not just your CV that needs to do the talking when applying for a new job. Your covering letter can be your foot in the door; it’s your first chance to show that you’re the person they should be talking to, so make it count.

Your letter is crucial

A good cover letter is like an entrée to a great meal, it should tantalise and build a sense of anticipation for the main event that is your CV. It should make the recruiter want to move on to your CV by exciting them and making them think that you’re just the person they’re looking for. Don’t just make it a summary of your career though, follow these tips and you’ll have a letter that’ll give you every chance of landing that interview.

Inject some personality

As well as highlighting key reasons you’d be excellent for the job, your cover letter is also your chance to get your personality into the application process. It’s an opportunity to build a rapport with whoever’s reading it and give them a sense of the real you. Use a tone of voice that’s friendly and informative and also allows your own character to shine through. Let the reader know how much you want the role and why. If you have a relationship with the person you’re writing to then be personable and remind them where you met or what you discussed on the phone. Use the opportunity as well to show you’ve done your research and reference some things about the company, its achievements or its market position.

Get writing – our top tips:

Overall considerations – keep your cover letter to a maximum of one side of A4. Be strict with yourself and stick to things that are relevant. Anything more and you risk losing focus and the reader’s attention.

Use positive language – strike a balance between being formal and over the top. Your letter doesn’t need to be Shakespearean prose nor should it be over the top and gushing with adjectives but let the reader know you are genuinely excited by the opportunities the role presents; that you’re excited by the chance to work with a company you admire and that you’re keen to discuss the role at their earliest convenience.

Page layout – if you’re writing and sending a proper letter, be sure to include your address, date and formal sign off, ensuring it’s all laid out neatly. If you’re writing straight into the body of an email, omit the date and your address.

Opening paragraph – state why you’re writing (mention the job title and corresponding reference number, if there is one) and how you heard about the opening (where you saw it advertised). If a contact’s recommended you for the job or suggested you get in touch, obtain their permission to mention their name, as it could be a great inroad.

Middle paragraphs – sum up any notable employment history, projects and skillsets but avoid merely repeating what’s already on your CV. This is your chance to prove to the recruiter that you can not only do the job but benefit the wider organisation, so keep it relevant.

Closing paragraph– sum up why you want to work for the company and why you think you’d be a good fit in terms of your achievements, aspirations and abilities. Be sure to include an optimistic sentence before final sign off, such as ‘I very much hope to hear from you soon’.

Sign-off – for proper letters and emails alike, ‘yours sincerely’ is a safe bet, but the less formal nature of an email communication means ‘thanks very much’ is also suitable.