Cover letter guide: Why are they important and how do you write one?
The importance of a great cover letter should never be underestimated. If a job advert asks for a cover letter – also known as a covering letter – it should be viewed as a requirement rather than an option. The perfect cover letter should complement your CV by expanding your condensed skill and experience points.
Why are cover letters important?
Your CV is often named as the most important document in your job-seeking arsenal. However, a cover letter should be treated with equal importance, and for good reason. While a CV should be short and precise, a cover letter provides the perfect space to really sell your skills and previous experience. Due to large volumes of applications for an individual opening, many employers now use keyword filters to find the right skillsets. If your CV falls into the right pile, a cover letter can help to present yourself as a candidate for the role and how you fit into the company culture.
Don’t be afraid to boast and show off a little. Try to demonstrate your enthusiasm and confidence in your abilities. The trick is to tailor every cover letter to suit an individual position by using different keywords, the company name and role title. With the right layout, you can fit these alterations neatly into the overall text for quick tailoring that works. This cover letter guide is based on a simple three-paragraph layout to create a cover letter for any vacancy.
How to start
Start a cover letter with your home address and email address so that the document looks professional and can be filed with your CV quickly. You should also refer to your CV and the position:
Your first paragraph should mirror the opening statement in your CV. Use these initial sentences to paint a general picture of your education and employment background by listing the industries you have worked in following your degree or internship – any work experience, no matter how small, can be linked to an industry. This general, overall view will describe your background quickly whilst being scanned by a potential employer. You may want to bullet point industries and main skills before moving on to your next paragraph as an eye-catching addition, for example:
Use your second paragraph to describe your past role titles and your main duties within each role. If you have a number of previous employers, consider condensing this information into key skills which apply to all these positions and simply describe past companies as employers, for example: “I have edited digital content for numerous employers.” Past projects should be limited to just one two that heavily relates to the job application – a cover letter shouldn’t be an essay.
Remember to refer back to the job vacancy to assess which skills to promote most. Employers often look for team players who can easily fit into a new work environment. Mention how you have helped customers or colleagues and the results of this help.
Your third paragraph should address your enthusiasm for the role and shed some light on your personal qualities. Get to the point quickly with an opening sentence that describes why you would be an asset to the company and incorporate skills and characteristics that relate to the application. Job descriptions are often long so it is fine to pick out a few important points that you can expand further. A little background research could reveal company values and company culture. Describe your suitability by using some matching keywords or values to demonstrate that you’ve done your homework.
How to end
End your cover letter in a professional manner by thanking the reader for their time and signing off like you would in a letter. Take this time to check your spelling and grammar. Your cover letter should not exceed one page, however, if you have a glowing reference from a professional in the industry, this can be used to conclude your cover letter to provide additional polish.