A cover letter should always accompany your CV unless you are told otherwise. It allows you to personalise your application by highlighting key areas of your CV in more depth. Sometimes it is difficult to know what to include in your cover letter, here are some tips:
Presentation – Address the letter to a specific person. If the advert doesn’t say, ring the company and ask who to send the letter to. Don’t forget to put the job title at the top of the letter and reference number where applicable. Avoid long paragraphs, type the letter neatly, always spell-check and never exceed one page.
Grammar – Avoid the phrase ‘I am writing’ in your opening paragraph, as this is obvious. Also, avoid starting each sentence with ‘I’ or ‘my’. You need to focus on the company rather than yourself.
Personalise – The reader must know immediately that you have not sent this letter to another employer. Tailor your letters and decide how casual or formal you should make your language. Generalised letters impress no-one.
Content – Look at the terminology that the employer has used in the ad, written job description or in a conversation and incorporate this into your letter. Don’t forget to match their needs to your experience and abilities.
Structure – In your opening paragraph, state why you are writing, identify the position for which you are applying and indicate how you heard about the position. Explain what interests you about the job. Your goal in the middle paragraph is to show how you can be useful to this particular organisation. Describe what strengths you have to offer by showing the relationship between your skills and experience and the vacancy. You can also describe your previous achievements and how they relate to the vacancy, and identify three reasons why you should be called to interview. Refer the reader to your enclosed CV for additional information.
Emphasise – Find relevant achievements in your work history and quote one or two succinctly and colourfully. It is fine if you have also included them in your CV – your letter should expand on your CV and complement your career summary.
Detail – You will have researched the company as part of your preparation, so when explaining why you are interested in the organisation or position, avoid general statements like; ‘I am impressed with your products and growth’. Write specifically about which products, what growth and why you are impressed.
Why you – Answer the question of ‘why you?’ What makes you worth considering? Emphasise your positive assets, such as education or skills, accomplishments and personal qualities in relation to the employer’s needs. Emphasise your strengths and experience.
Timing – If there’s a closing date, time your posting so that it arrives a few days after the main ‘rush’ that occurs within 4-7 days of the advertisement’s publication (but not after the closing date!). Alternatively, you may prefer to be the first to respond.
Closing – End the letter with a specific statement of what your next step will be. If you plan to follow up with a telephone call, tell them that. If you plan to wait for the employer’s response, say so as well. Conclude by saying you look forward to discussing your career with the advertiser.