Cover letters can be the bane of a jobseeker’s existence. While a CV is more structured and itemised, having to sum up your personality, sell yourself, and at the same time avoid sounding like you think you’re a candidate on The Apprentice, can be a daunting task!
A good approach is to just start by writing, ignoring the rules for the time being. Write down everything you think makes you suitable to the job, all the reasons why you want to work at this new setting and everything that makes you unique in your approach and personality. Forgetting the structure and just writing freely to start with will allow your thoughts to flow more easily.
Now you have the basics it’s time to sort, organise and refine.
It’s all in the NAME
To start, do your best to find the name of the person you’re writing to. It’s unlikely that the job application won’t give you a name but, if that is the case, do your research and find the name of the manager at the setting you’re applying to so your cover letter sounds much more personal than ‘Dear Madam/Sir’. It’s often said that people’s favourite sound is that of their own name, and don’t you forget it!
Arranging Your Letter
Next, separate your letter into paragraphs – three is ideal. Spend some time rearranging the sentences from your initial free-flow so that they fit into the below sections. Can’t find a place for something? If it’s not essential, delete it. If it’s essential, try rewording it to make it more relevant to the paragraph.
The first paragraph should explain why you want the job. Don’t waste words saying who you are (they will have this information in your CV, email or at the end of the letter) but tell them how excited you are to be applying for this role, and how you believe you are the perfect person for the role.
This is where you big yourself up. Reference your experience anecdotally as all the dates and specifics are in your CV already and you don’t want to repeat. Tell the story of how you came to have the experience and skills needed for this position.
Now’s the time to show you know the company. Stalk their company’s Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, everything! Did they do a particularly funny post? Or highlight a member of staff’s particular achievements? Perhaps they organised a fundraiser for a local charity and got the children involved. Whatever it is, mention what you liked about it. And go back in time a little – it’ll be obvious if you just mention their latest post!
The Big Finish
End your letter with a summary of why you’re perfect for this job and how excited you are to prove you’re the one they want, before telling them you’re happy to send over more information, if needed, and you’re looking forward to hearing from them.
We know you probably don’t need telling, but you’d be surprised at how many people forget these bits!
- Make sure your name and contact details are on the end of the letter and written correctly!
- Make sure you’ve spelled everything correctly and all names of people, companies and job titles have capital letters! If needed, get a friend to check it through.
- If you’ve applied for a role with this organisation before, make sure you’re not just copy & pasting! They’ll notice.
Following these simple rules should take some of the difficulty out of writing your cover letter. The rest is down to you.