What Is A Cover Letter?
Usually dismissed in the application process, a cover letter can catapult yourself into landing that initial interview. Hence why it is essential to know what a cover letter is. Attached to a CV, is the cover letter to your application. Unlike a CV, which is an overview of your skills, experience and accomplishments; a cover letter is tailored to the job at hand. Oh, and while you are here, take a look at our CV guide to ensure your application is flawless.
Cover Letter Layout
To keep everything neat and well-structured, it is important to know the layout of a cover letter. Follow the steps below and learn how to write a cover letter that is bound to get you noticed.
1. Contact information
Similar to a normal letter, the first section should include your contact information. This is placed on the right side of the letter and will have the following details:
- Your full name
- The first line of the address
You will now put who the letter is addressed to. Unaware of the name? No worries, you can just include Sir or Madam.
Minor detail but on the same line, add the date on the right-side (so it sits below your address).
Include the name of the position, along with the reference number (if applicable). This not only helps the recruiter, but adds a level of professionalism too. Double whammy.
Subject: [Name of Vacancy]
This should be 2-3 sentences long and should include your current status (if you are a student or not), your interest in the vacancy, and expressing that you wish to develop.
You may think: How on earth do I cram in such information? This is why the subject header is important - you save on words!
Don't worry, further down we have included examples of a perfectly written introduction!
6. First paragraph
The first paragraph addresses your interest in the role and why you would like to work at this particular company. This is also the opportunity to say how you are suited to the role.
7. Middle paragraph
The topic of this paragraph is to highlight why the role appeals to you and discuss how the responsibilities of the position are suited to your needs. You can also share your previous work experiences and extra-curricular activities (as long as it is relevant!).
8. Final paragraph
The final paragraph is the chance to sell yourself. Tailor your competency skills to the role and include any achievements you have. Demonstrate your capabilities and how you will apply your work ethic to the role.
Conclude your cover letter by thanking them for their consideration and mention your CV is attached to the cover letter.
Ever get confused if you should put 'yours faithfully' or 'yours sincerely'? Well, today is your lucky day! Only use yours faithfully if you have addressed them as 'Sir/Madam'. Otherwise, you can use yours sincerely if you have used their name. Finally, include your name along with a contact number and email address below.
What To Include In A Cover Letter?
1. Relevant work experience
Have you undertaken previous work duties that are similar to the role you are applying for?
2. Recent achievements
Include achievements which demonstrate your proactive personality and high work ethic.
3. Skills tailored for the role
Look through the job description and include any skills you may have. No lying!
4. Simple language
Using fluffy words and Shakespearean language seems like a way to impress recruiters, however, you should keep it simple! Get straight to the point and use your words wisely.
5. Extra-curricular activities
Join those Harry Potter and sports societies to help boost your cover letter! FYT - drinking does not count.
How To Prepare A Cover Letter?
Quick recap. You know how a cover letter should look like and what lovely parts to include. But how do you go about writing one? There are steps to prepare, which will make it a far more pleasurable experience.
Research The Company
Tailoring a cover letter will involve knowing different parts of the company. No need to dig through thousands of pages on Wikipedia. Follow these pointers to help with writing your cover letter:
- Company's culture and values.
- Mission statement.
- Products, services and clients.
- Recent events and the news.
- Popular campagins.
With this wonderous amount of information, you can start connecting the dots. How do the company's values match your own? Did you find anything inspiring? Have they recently done charitable work? Weave this information throughout your cover letter, especially in the first paragraph.
Research The Role
What does the role entail? In the cover letter, it is your chance to sell yourself and proclaim why this role was made for you. And how do you do that? With research, of course!
- Day-to-day responsibilities.
- Required skills.
- Routes to progression.
From there, you can align your own set of skills with the role and mention any skills you wish to develop.
Yes, we know that sounds a bit dumbfounded, but listen up; it makes sense. The whole point of the cover letter is to talk about yourself and why the position is for you. And if you have no idea how to do that, it can make things a little tricky. Figuring out what you do and your past accomplishments will make this far easier.
- Your education and work experience.
- Extra-curricular activities you have done.
- Volunteer work.
- Any stand-out attributes. For example, do you have excellent customer service skills?
- Hobbies and interests.
What can you do with this information? Highlighting your personal qualities gives an insight to the recruiter on how well you would fit with the company's dynamics, which employers highly value.
How To Write A Cover Letter With No Experience?
No work experience? Sounds like a damaging thought. Luckily enough you have a truckload of valuable educational experience to sell yourself. Follow these simple steps to make sure your cover letter is not placed on the no pile.
1. Show off your education
- Work experience is lacking, but not your education.
- Did you achieve any accomplishments during school? Win any awards? Or did you simply reach your predicted grades?
- What may seem mediocre to you, can be of value to the employer.
- Across any application, you should display enthusiasm towards the role. No one wants a deadpan candidate!
- In this case, you should demonstrate your positive attitude to start a first-time position.
- Do you also have career aspirations? Share this in your cover letter too!
3. Transferable skills
- Employers love soft skills. Why? It shows off your qualities and your ability to work with other people.
- And luckily enough, you don't need work experience to get you started with that.
- Those dreaded group projects you did back at school helps harness in those teamwork skills. Whereas science subjects can help develop analytical skills!
- You can still match your skill set to a job description without work experience, all you have to do is think back to school.
Cover Letter Examples
Take a look at our cover letter examples to gain some ideas. Use our cover letter examples as a template to help you create your own. Make sure to tailor-make it for the job description, the company and for your experiences.
Cover Letter Example #1
James is writing his cover letter for an HR placement opportunity at a data-security company. In this example, you can see he has listed extra-curricular activities, any relevant work experiences and reasons why he feels the role is suited to him. There has been plenty of research into the company too - showing determination and an inquisitive nature to learn more about the position.
20 High Street
Subject: Human Resources Placement
I am a second-year BA Business Management student at StudentJob University, on track for a 1st classification. In response to your vacancy at [Name of Company] I wish to apply and express my interest. I am keen to develop a career in HR and complete the CIPD qualification.
I would like to work for [Name of Company], due to many reasons. Firstly, they are continuously raising awareness of data privacy, which I have a great interest in and wish to develop my understanding of cyber-security as I communicate mostly using emails. Secondly, I admire the values [Name of Company] incorporate into their business, for example, I undertook a module in Counselling Skills, which heavily focused on the importance of integrity. Thirdly, [Name of Company] continuous growth in providing international and award-winning services matches my determination to grow into a role that offers many opportunities in the HR industry. Furthermore, the array of benefits the company includes such as the ‘Annual Kick-Off’ event shows the support and fun [Name of Company] offers to its employees.
The role at [Name of Company] appeals to me greatly - in previous work experience I was responsible for training newly recruited employees and offered them support throughout their employment, therefore I wish to develop these skills further and apply them to a specific HR role. Responsibilities such as overseeing retention initiatives, organising development projects and managing employee relations are all areas of interest and therefore would apply my highly enthusiastic attitude to develop new and existing skills. I will be undertaking an optional module in ‘Managing Human Resources’, which focuses on developing my mindset on how to approach and resolve issues in the workplace, and will prepare me to work in HR practice. Additionally, I would utilise excellent customer service and interpersonal skills and apply them to a fast-paced HR environment.
I am suitable for the role at [Name of Company] and would apply many skills. Firstly, I have demonstrated my excellent interpersonal skills by working in a customer-facing environment and would use communication, motivation and team playing skills to ensure targets were met. I enjoy problem-solving and this has been developed by dealing with challenging customer complaints, I would neutralise the situation by applying negotiating and listening skills, which led to customers being satisfied. I will apply initiative to the role and this has been evident in my approach to University, which I successfully balance academic and extracurricular activities such as being Course Representative and Student Ambassador to continuously develop my professional profile.
I would like to thank you for considering my application, enclosed is my C.V with my contact details.
Cover Letter Example #2
To write a cover letter with no experience may seem like a waste of time, but there are many ways to write one! The first paragraph is a short introduction. Followed with skills and accomplishments. The third paragraph highlights why you are fit for the role and lastly a nice little conclusion. Seems easy, right? Give it a go!
21 High Street
Subject: Shop Assistant
I am a first-year A-level student at StudentJob Sixth Form studying Business Studies, English and Maths. I wish to express my interest in your advertised vacancy for a Shop Assistant at [Name of Company].
The role appealed to me greatly for many reasons. Firstly, I undertook two-weeks work experience in a school, this required me to engage with students to ensure the lessons were run smoothly. This highly energetic role is what inspired me to help people and I wish to apply it in a retail setting. I have previously shopped in your store and understand the business it can reach; therefore I would use my energy to handle busy peak periods, but my initiative when the store is quiet.
During school, I was part of a group to help design a new lunch menu. The project involved brainstorming sessions, designing the menu and presenting it to a group of senior staff. I learned valuable skills from this experience including collaboration, presentation and time management too. I was also responsible for a volunteer project at school, whereby as a team we were responsible for coming up with ideas to raise money. This demonstrates integrity and honesty due to handling finances, whereby I was praised by senior staff for my efforts.
With the combination of my educational accomplishments and work attitude, I am confident that I am fit for the position. Thank you for taking the time to read my application and I look forward to hearing from you.
How To Email A Cover Letter?
Your cover letter has finally been completed. What a masterpiece, you think. You feel like a literary grandmaster. Until you open a new email, put your CV and cover letter in the attachment and just before you press send, you realise that there is still one hurdle to take: writing an accompanying e-mail. An empty email with just an attachment is strange. But what do you write in the accompanying e-mail? Simple.
Address them as Sir/Madam, highlight what role you are applying for and mention the CV and cover letter are attached in the email. Read it through and make sure the documents are attached (You'd be surprised how many times people send a blank email!). Remember, an email full of errors does not set a good first impression.
What Not To Include In A Cover Letter?
Guess what, we are almost at the end! Knowing what not to include in a cover letter may seem like common sense, but you'd be surprised at some of the examples we have seen. You can spell out your experiences and have the ideal layout, but make any of the below mistakes and all your hard work could go to waste. Ouch.
1. Grammatical errors or spelling mistakes
The most obvious, yet one of the common mistakes to make. Get someone to proofread it and check it through Grammarly (it's free!)
2. Wage or salary expectations
We all know money is an incentive, but mention other interests in the role.
3. Fancy stuff
Unless it is a creative role you are going for, keep it simple! No need for highlighted words, vibrant colours or laminated paper to get yourself noticed.
4. No bitching
Never moan about your previous employment or school experiences. No one likes a complainer!
5. Incorrect information
Don't slip up and include the wrong company's name or any other errors! If this happens then you can wave bye-bye to that application.
6. Unprofessional email address
Long gone are the days of firstname.lastname@example.org.
Consider These Cover Letter Tips
Is your cover letter ready? Check through our checklist to make sure everything is perfect. If not, make sure to go back and edit your cover letter accordingly.
1. Don't waffle on!
Maximum is one page.
2. Match your tone of voice with theirs
Scan through the job description? How are they talking? If it is corporate, keep it like that. If it is fun and covered in rainbows, well you know the drill.
3. Remember your font size
Keep it to size 12 and font style Arial. Safest bet.
4. Sending an email?
Save it as a PDF so the format is locked.
Remember your white spaces! The recruiter many have hundreds to read through, to keep it an enjoyable experience for them.
6. Be enthusiastic
In the cover letter, don't do the whole: 'I want a job because I need one'. That doesn't say anything positive about yourself. Show off your excitement!
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