How to write a cover letter

How to write a cover letter

Your resume may be over the moon, but you won't even get the job interview if your letter of application makes a bad impression

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A bad cover letter can prevent you from getting a job, even if you're the perfect candidate. The letter is an essential part of the job application process: it is the first impression you give to the person who is hiring you and, as the saying goes, first impressions count. But there is no need to panic: getting cover letters right is just a matter of approach and practice.

Follow our guide and produce a cover letter that is sure to get you an interview.

1 Be confident. If you believe you can do this job well, your words will be more convincing.

2 Find a happy medium in your tone and style. Don't be too casual or excessively formal. It is important to show respect and that you know how to write a proper letter.

3 Write with a natural (no need for overly complicated or sophisticated words), direct (make your sentences short and to the point) and enthusiastic tone (no exclamation marks, but the reader must feel you are really motivated).

4 Follow any instructions in the job advert exactly. If they ask you to quote a reference number in the subject field of your e-mail, do it. Otherwise, your application may be deleted without even being read.

5 If e-mailing, write your letter in the body of the e-mail rather than as an attachment, unless told otherwise. This makes it easer for the employer to access and read it. You can also attach a copy for easier printing.

6 Your cover letter should not be longer than 300 words.

7 A resume is essentially the same for each job you apply for, but a cover letter is your chance to personalise your application. Add elements that are not in your resume.

8 It's best to address the letter to a specific person; call the company for a name and title. Otherwise, skip the "Dear ...".

9 Start your cover letter with a short introduction. Mention the job you're applying for and where you saw it advertised.

10 The first paragraph should be about yourself, highlighting what makes you different from other candidates. Do not repeat information in your resume unless it is something that defines you. Give details that are specifically relevant to the position and company you're applying for.

11 The second paragraph should be about the hiring company - how you see them and why you want to work for them.

12 The last main paragraph should focus on what you can bring to the company - not the other way around - and why they should choose you for the job.

13 Finally, write a short paragraph summarising any attachments to your e-mail and saying when you would be available for a meeting. Don't spend too much time thanking them.

14 Check that your grammar, punctuation, and spelling of people's names are correct. Then check them again!

See also

How to write a good resume

How to ace an interview

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