You’ve found a job that looks perfect for you. You’ve polished your CV. Now, all that stands between you and your dream job is a blank page that needs to miraculously turn into a mean cover letter. So, how on earth do you write a cover letter? Don’t worry, your friendly neighbourhood copywriter has got your back. Read on to find out exactly how to write a cover letter that will impress potential employers.
How to format a cover letter
Firstly, let’s lean on our good friends Microsoft Word and Google Docs. They’ve done the hard work for you, so before you start panicking about how to format a cover letter, check out their letter writing templates. You can do this by simply logging into your Google account, going into your Google Docs then browsing the template gallery. Or, open up Word and peruse the different letter writing templates available there.
The general letter writing format I would advise to stick to is to write the recipient’s address top left, followed by your own address beneath this on the right.
Missing out a line to add a space, include the date underneath your address on the right.
Beneath this, you will then tab back to the left and add your salutation, which takes us seamlessly into…
Who to address a cover letter to
There are two ways to address a cover letter. If you know the name of the person you are writing to, then write their name as so: “Dear Mr Bloggs,” ( followed by a comma).
However, if you’re not sure who to address the letter to, simply write: “Dear sir/madam,” then a comma.
Now is not the time to be casual, so forget about starting your cover letter hi, hey, hello or similar. Keep it professional and make a good first impression.
What to put in a cover letter
Firstly, begin your cover letter with a general statement about why you are applying for the role, referencing the role and company by name. Then, add a brief sentence about why you feel you would be a great candidate for the job.
For example: “I am writing to apply for the position of marketing executive at Generic Marketing Agency. I feel I would be extremely well suited to this role thanks to my marketing degree, workplace training and previous job experience in similar roles, and my enthusiasm and proactive attitude would be a real asset to the company.”
From here, the best way to write the content in your cover letter is by working to the job description. Check out exactly what the employer is looking for, then relate it back to your skills, qualifications and qualities.
Now, this doesn’t mean simply listing the job description in its entirety and adding that you can do each thing. “Experience in Photoshop – tick, competency in Illustrator – completed it mate.” Instead, use the job description as your foundation to weave your suitability into fluid, snappy sentences. For example: “I am extremely experienced in design, and I’m highly proficient at working in both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.”
However, a word of warning. A cover letter should usually be short and sweet, unless an employer has asked for a detailed account of your skills and experience. So, if there’s a huge list of requirements on the job description, condense your bragging down into a couple of short paragraphs.
Throughout the letter, make sure you refer to the company by name. And don’t be afraid to include a nod to any research you’ve done on the business. An example of this would be: “I was impressed by the work you did for Animal Charity – as a passionate animal lover, I would relish the opportunity to bring my skillset to your next project of this kind.” This shows you’ve done your homework and you’re keen to slide straight into any existing or future projects.
How to sign off a cover letter – is it yours sincerely or yours faithfully?
When is it yours sincerely, and when is it yours faithfully? The eternal sign off debate. This is one I have to either Google (or pre-Google, I had to ask my mum) every single time I write a letter. Which, to be frank, is rare nowadays, but still.
The answer is simple (if you can remember it). If you know the person, or at least their name, then sign off your letter with “yours sincerely’.
If you don’t know the person you’re writing a letter to, then the correct sign off to end the letter is “yours faithfully”. Use “yours faithfully” when you’ve started the letter “dear sir/madam”.
I suppose you could think of it as being sincere towards an actual person you know. Or, having faith your letter will reach the right person if not.
(And if I can remember that without Googling it next time, have faith that I’ll be giving myself a sincere pat on the back).
Cover letter writing tips
To finish, I wanted to include some general cover letter writing tips. Think of this section as a final boost to get your cover letter over the line from the maybe to the yes pile.
Ideally, your cover letter should be around a single page of A4 in length. After all, it’s an introduction to your CV or application, and not the application itself. Therefore, try to be short and sweet, summarising your key points, skills and experience.
Again, refer back to the name of the company you’re applying to work for, as it shows you’ve taken the time to understand the business and this isn’t just a copy and paste job.
Maintain a professional tone throughout writing your cover letter, yet don’t be afraid of showing who you are. Now, this doesn’t mean inserting jokes in there. However, you should be frank about the kind of person you are and how you feel this would tie in with the role or company. Most employers are simply trying to find out if you can string a sentence together and conduct yourself professionally when they ask for a cover letter. So, as long as you’ve smashed this
And my final cover letter writing tip is ALWAYS get it checked by someone else! Friend, family member, work mate or professional, as long as they have a decent grasp of the English language then fire your cover letter over and ask for their honest opinion. Whether it’s your first ever cover letter or you’ve applied for hundreds of jobs, a fresh pair of eyes is always a good idea.
Hopefully, this blog has helped you to write a cover letter that will impress your employer of choice. If it leads to you getting an interview, please let me know so I can smile to myself like a proud mum.