Writing the Perfect Cover Letter or Email

It’s a very standard way of soliciting applications for a position – send a CV and cover letter to the given address. If you’re actively job hunting then you probably have a pile of CV’s ready to send, but how should you construct your cover letter? What do you say, and what should be left off?

Formatting

Sometimes, employers will ask for a handwritten cover letter as a way of ensuring that you’re not just sending out the same letter for every job you apply to. If you’re typing a cover letter to print, use white paper, a business-like font such as Times New Roman or Arial in a reasonable size. Never include clip art or images. If sending by email the same rules apply; it’s usually best to send the cover letter as an attachment rather than in the body of the email. Make sure you have the address correct whether using post or email, that you spellcheck and grammar check the letter very carefully and make sure that any dates or details given on your letter match the details on your CV. Use the formal name of the person who is receiving the applications, so “Dear Mr Smith” rather than “Hi John”. If you’re using email, check before hitting the “send” button that you’ve added the attachments.

Keep it Brief

Remember that you’re sending your CV along with your cover letter in most instances, so don’t waste time simply repeating your qualifications and experience. Keep any cover letter to a page at the very most, in many cases half a page will be plenty. If you’re invited to interview, there will be plenty of opportunity to talk at length about other aspects of your experience and previous work.

Structuring the Letter

There’s a standard format for cover letters which has been proven to work well. Firstly, start by telling the reader why you’re writing, and what job you’re applying for. Then try to give an impression that you’re interested in the company, have experience in their marketplace or have a particular interest in their products. Then show briefly why you believe you’re a perfect fit for the job, mentioning very briefly your key skills or experience. Finally, round off your letter by trying to demonstrate again why you’re the perfect fit for the job and say that you’re looking forward to hearing from them soon. Try to use different phrases for each cover letter you write as it will be obvious to employers if you have not put much thought and personality into your letter.

Use a template

If you struggle with writing the perfect cover letter, there is help out there. Ask a friend who is good with words to look over your letter and suggest improvements, or look online for one of the many templates which are available and will help with structure. Make sure you’re looking at a British site though as standards and conventions can be different, especially in the United States.