Have you ever read a job description and immediately been turned off when it requires a covering letter?


Cover letters are easier to write than you think. Once you get into the rhythm of writing them, you soon realise that a quality cover letter customised to a specific job position is not too time consuming and well worth it.


Remember, the purpose of a cover letter is to complement your CV, not duplicate it.


Here’s an example of how you might structure yours.


Paragraph 1:

Your opening paragraph is probably the most important part of your letter, so you need to nail it. It needs to be engaging and concise; the reason why your application stuck in the hiring manager’s mind.


Here you need to highlight why you’re writing the letter, then state the role you’re applying for and how you came across that position.


For example:

“I’m thrilled to hear about the opening position you are currently advertising on LinkedIn… I am writing to apply for the role of HR Manager…”


Do: Try to address it to the recruiter or hiring manager – do some research before writing your letter to find out who this is.

Don’t: Address it with: “To Whom it May Concern” unless you absolutely have to.


Paragraph 2:

After your intro, you’re ready to showcase why you’re suitable for the role. Do not copy your CV. Here is your opportunity to tell a story using the experiences you’ve put on your CV.


Expand on your relevant skills – to know which ones are relevant, examine the job description and compare it to your CV. If the job description wants you to have a degree in a relevant subject, here’s your chance to talk about it, or any relevant courses you’ve completed.


If the role requires previous experience in customer service, for example, or requires communicative skills, use the examples in your CV to demonstrate how you have these skills.


For example:

“During my time as X at company Y, I directed the implementation of new system Z that produced a 70% increase in customer satisfaction…”


Do: Give precise and detailed examples of situations wherein you have shown the desired characteristics in the job description.

Don’t: Rehash your CV – the recruiter already knows you spent 6 months as a Customer Advisor, use your cover letter to demonstrate how you were the best at it.


Paragraph 3:

Here you can showcase your knowledge about the company you’re applying to and the industry it belongs to. The recruiter wants to know you have researched them and are aware of industry news.


By referencing facts about the sector, the recruiter can sense your enthusiasm and genuine interest. Give some details as to why you want to work for them.


For example:

“I have always followed the work of [company X] through your various social media channels and was pleased to receive a notification that you were hiring for a Marketing Manager… The famous campaign Y drew me to [company X] and inspired me to pursue a career in marketing…”


Do: Utilise resources that will give you insights into the company you’re applying for, such as LinkedIn, their company website (which often showcases their values and philosophies), and a Google search to find out latest news about them.

Don’t: Send the same cover letter to every company you apply for. The whole point of a cover letter is its personalisation, and a recruiter won’t feel you have researched the position properly.


Paragraph 4:

Finally, end your letter with a call for action. Directly ask for the opportunity to have an interview and discuss things further.


For example:

“I’m immediately available for an interview… I’d be interested in discussing this role further and am available on 079XXXXXXXX… I’m looking forward to speaking with you soon…”


Final Tips:

  1. Create a basic template that you can reuse and adjust for each company you apply for.


  1. Avoid words you are likely to accidentally repeat such as “that”, “just”, “very”, “really” – hint: hit Ctrl+F in your document to search these words and filter them out of your letter.


  1. Don’t make your cover letter any longer than one page. Use a size 10-11, readable font (Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, Cambria).


  1. Try not to use clichéd language – be clear and specific, providing proof for each claim or accomplishment you describe about yourself.


  1. Remember throughout your writing you should be actively answering “why should they hire me” – this should keep you from waffling on and force you to focus on your Unique Selling Points and how they make you an asset to the company and perfect for the role


  1. Proofread your letter. If you’re struggling to figure out why that one sentence won’t read properly, hand it over to a friend or family member to read through. Also make sure that your contact details and the company name are correct.


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