How To Write A Good Cover Letter

Whenever you send a CV to a prospective employer, you should accompany it with a cover letter, even if they do not request one. This is valid for all forms of communication, whether you are sending your CV by post, fax or even email. The purpose of the cover letter is to create a good first impression. To that effect, the best cover letters are those which are tailored to the company and the post to which you are applying. Cover letters are your opportunity to make a good first impression. You should therefore ensure that they are written in a formal, professional style.

Format of the cover letter

The letter should be no longer than one side of A4 and should contain 3 paragraphs, 4 at the very maximum, written in Arial font 11 or any other font approaching this one. It should be written in a positive style, emphasising the key points which you feel make you an ideal candidate for the post. As much as possible try to write to a specific individual rather than just a job title (i.e. write to Mrs Jane Doe HR Manager, rather than to "Whoever it may concern" or "the HR Manager").

The cover letter is best structured along the following points

  • Contact details i.e. your name, address, telephone number and email address. This will ensure that they can get back to you, though you should make sure that you do not use any unprofessional email addresses such as dancingqueen@xxx.com
  • Details of the person whom you are writing to
  • Date, using the long format i.e. 23 August 2008 rather than 23/8/08
  • Title. Rather than start the letter straight away, ensure that the reader knows what this is about by writing a short title such as "Application for the post of xxxx - Ref xxxx". This should be written in bold.
  • First paragraph: Explain why you are writing, the position that you are applying for, how you have come across the job vacancy, why you are interested in this post and this company.
  • Second paragraph: Explain what you can offer to this company i.e what skills and experience you possess which are relevant to the company in view of the information shown in the advert. You can also summarise your key qualifications and quote one or two previous jobs which are related to this new position. The difficulty lies in presenting information which is already in the CV in a manner which is more personal.
  • Third paragraph: Refer to the CV for any further information about you, explain that you would be keen to meet up with them to discuss your suitability further and thank the reader for their time in considering your application.
  • Closure: Yours sincerely if you are writing to a specific person, otherwise use "Yours faithfully".
  • Signature: Sign everything by hand, not with a font which looks like handwriting.