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Cracking the cover letter

Cover letter

You’ve found the perfect job. You’ve followed our tips and tailored your CV, highlighting your relevant work experience and double checking for any errors.

Next up: the cover letter. Cover letters are just as important as your CV and are usually the first thing a recruiter will see or read. Your cover letter offers your potential employer a chance to get to know you, and for you to market your skills, experience and other qualities.

There’s no such thing as the perfect cover letter, but there are some tips to keep in mind while penning yours.

Personalise

Avoid the generic ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ – personalisation is far better than a bland salutation. Do some research on the company website or LinkedIn or make a quick call to find out who’s in charge of hiring, and address it to them.

If you can’t find a name, consider something like ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ instead.

Structure

Generally, cover letters follow a similar structure. The first paragraph should include the post you are applying for, followed by your interest in the job and your suitability. The closing paragraph should thank the recruiter for their consideration, outline your desire to discuss your application further and note that you are available for interview.

Formatting

Keep the text short, sweet and to the point. You may be well qualified for the job, but three pages is a little too much. For most roles you shouldn’t go beyond one page, and no more than three or four paragraphs. The style and font should also match that used in your CV.

Use professional and straightforward language, but avoid words you wouldn’t normally use. Break your content into paragraphs – a wall of text is very off-putting. Like your CV, customise your cover letter to match the job description – use keywords or topics mentioned in the advert. And, as with any job application, check, double check and recheck for mistakes!

Avoid duplication

Some cover letters are simply alternate versions of the CV, but this is a bad idea. Your cover letter is another chance to set your application apart from the crowd – focus on the key skills and experience that you can bring to the table (which match the advert), and perhaps include a recent company project that inspired you or changes/advances within the field that you find engaging. Let your personality and interests shine through – make the recruiter want to open your CV.

Seek help

If you’re not used to writing cover letters, or you haven’t had much luck securing job interviews, get a second opinion. There are plenty of online resources and templates available with a simple Google search, or ask a friend or family member to take a look.

 

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When not writing about all things personal finance, You & Your Money's editor Conor Forrest enjoys reading, football and getting lost in an ocean of Wikipedia articles.
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