Writing a good cover letter or as some people describe them cover notes, is quite simple although many people tend to think that they are complicated and get all worked up about writing one.
Cover letters or covering letters historically come from when we used to write letters accompanying job applications, something that I'm old enough to remember. They are essentially a part of British politeness and etiquette that we still use today some of the time. I'm old enough and old-fashioned enough to say that you should send a covering letter with every job application you make. To me, it just makes sense and is eh em, just good manners.
If you think about it, if someone's CV lands on your desk or doormat without a note from the person who sent it, or saying why they sent it in the first place, why they've sent it specifically to you, and what they plan on doing next, well it's a bit like someone knocking on your door and inviting themselves in for dinner. It's a bit rude, or some might say very rude. And that's not the right foot to get off on when making your first impressions, especially to a potential employer.
A bit like CVs, there are no rules when it comes to cover letters, apart from common sense rules. I would argue that a cover letter need only be one page long, you are after all only introducing yourself and your CV and saying why you are contacting an employer in the first place. Your CV may only be one page or two at the most and that should be saying most of the important stuff about you. Writing more than one page means that you are asking a lot of potential employer to read about you especially if they've got a CV to read as well.
And I would say that a good cover letter should be brief, to the point, have no waffle and should cover these four areas:
1. Why are you sending the cover letter and your CV to an employer?
Ans: Please find attached (or enclosed) my CV in application for the position of ..... as advertised in the .......... on the 15th Feb 2018.
2. Brief information about what qualifies you for the role you are applying for:
Ans: As you can see from my CV, I have been working as a ........... for the past four years and have a qualification in ................. which I believe makes me the perfect candidate for this role.
3. What are you doing now?
Ans: Currently I am working as a ........... which I have been doing for the past .......... years but I am seeking a more challenging role, where I can develop my skills, my career and contribute towards the success of my future employer.
4. What do you know about the company you are applying to?
Ans: I have done some research on your company and have found that the areas that you cover and are planning on expanding into, are areas that I am keen to develop more knowledge in and where I can focus my existing skills.
5. What do you plan on doing next?
Ans: I will be calling you next week to discuss my application and to see how we can progress it further. In the meantime, please contact me if you have any further questions and I look forward to your reply.
6. Sign off
Yours sincerely (if you have their name)
Yours faithfully (if you don't know the name of who you are sending your cover letter and CV to).
And that's basically how you write a cover letter.
Some people use bullet pointed paragraphs to emphasise how they meet particular points of a job description or person specification or to just list their strengths, skills or qualities. That's a stylistic issue that you will have to decide upon yourself.
Remember that you are already sending your CV so don't repeat what you have already put on your CV in your cover letter.
You can send the content of your word-processed cover letter in the main body of an email if applying by email, or send it as an attachment depending on what the employer has stipulated and if they haven't stipulated anything, then you'll have to use your judgement and common sense.
If you are sending your word-processed cover letter as an attachment, then you should sent it laid out as a letter in the old fashioned style, in my opinion, which would look something like this:
The only thing that I would add to the above example is a reference heading below the address of who I am sending it to but above the first line, "Dear Ms......." like this:
REF: Job Application for position of ...................
I would also put the reference in bold and underline it, so that it stands out when the reader opens the attachment and the letter reference says, in no unequivocal manner, what the letter is for and why you have sent them your CV.
A brief note on how to start the letter, remember to spell names and titles correctly, you don't want to annoy a potential employer with your very first line, that won't look good and will lessen your chances of getting an interview.
When addressing a man, it's quite simple and is usually, "Dear Mr Bloggs", unless they have a title such as Professor, Dr, Sir or Lord etc when you should use their title.
When addressing a woman it's a bit trickier and you can potentially really put your foot in it by putting the wrong title. If you don't know whether their title is Mrs, Miss or Ms, always err on the side of caution and put Ms. Ms means that we don't know what their marital status and frankly it's none of our business. But if you make assumptions and call someone "Mrs" or "Miss" then you could be insulting them and obviously that is not a good way to get started with someone who you are asking to employ you.
The trick is to do your homework and find out how to spell their name, find out what their title is and if you don't know use Mr or Ms and if you don't know if it's a man or a woman then use:
Dear Sir/Madam, or Dear Sir or Madam,
I hope that is all as clear as mud and if you are not confident about writing your own cover letter, then CV Guru can do it for you. Just let him know and he'll be able to provide one along with your CV.
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