Writing a Cover Letter
Writing an excellent cover letter is what really makes your application stand out to employers as it brings out your personality a bit more rather than just listing your qualifications, skills and achievements.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a document that is often sent alongside your CV. It provides additional information on how your skills and experiences align with the role that you are applying to and highlights your main motivations for applying. They are an important part of the application process as they act as an opportunity to sell yourself.
Employers often use cover letters to screen applicants, and they are often the point at which first impressions are made in their minds. Therefore, it’s a chance for them to develop a better understanding of your suitability for a position.
A cover letter differs from a CV in that it should be specifically written for the company and role you are applying for. In addition, it’s important to simply not repeat what’s on your CV.
How to tailor each cover letter?
To tailor your cover letter to every application, it’s crucial you have done your research. Building up your knowledge of the industry and company that you’re applying to will help demonstrate your passion for the job and sector.
The most important aspects you should research are:
Company’s culture and its core values
Their future vision and aims
Recent events and news
Any recent events or trends occurring in the sector
Articles about relevant companies
Skills and experiences required for the job
Day to day responsibilities
This does not mean you have to include everything you have found in your research, only mention the relevant points and try relating them back to yourself and your skills.
Check out our Resources page to get hold of tailored cover letters for various industries written by our mentors!
How to format a cover letter?
Use the same font and size throughout.
Have even spacing between paragraphs.
Check your spelling and grammar.
Send your cover letter in a PDF format unless otherwise stated and make sure to use an appropriate name such as Your-Name-Cover-Letter.pdf.
How long should a cover letter be?
A cover letter should be between a half page and a full page. Do not exceed more than a page.
Try to keep it concise and simple.
How to structure a cover letter?
Below is a basic structure for writing a cover letter however every time you send a cover letter; ensure that it is tailored to the company and role that you are applying for.
Similar to a normal letter, include your contact information on the top right of the page. It should include following details:
The first line of the address
Address the letter to the hiring manager or head of recruitment. If you are struggling to find their name, you can put ‘Dear Sir or Madam’ or ‘Dear recruitment team’.
Include the name of the company and specific role/programme that you’re applying to.
For example, RE: JP Morgan – Software Engineering Graduate Scheme 2020
Begin by stating why you’re writing the letter, what position you are applying for and briefly introduce yourself, explaining what and where you are studying. This should only be 3-4 sentences.
1st paragraph – the first paragraph is your chance to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and the sector. Expand on why you are interested in working for the particular company. You should also mention what you can offer to the company as well as why you will fit in with the company culture and core values.
2nd paragraph – the second paragraph should be about you and why you're the best candidate for the role. Address what attracted you to the role and discuss how your skills and experiences match the requirements of the position. Use any relevant examples and achievements to back your claims - remember do not list things from your CV, only state your most notable achievements and explain a bit more about them.
Last paragraph – the final paragraph is you last chance to sell yourself. You should round up the cover letter by reiterating your interest in the role and expressing how your main capabilities make you a strong fit for the company and/or position. Finally, mention how you will apply your work ethic to the role.
The way you sign off your cover letter depends on how you addressed it. If you included a named contact in the salutation, sign off with 'Yours sincerely' but if you used a general greeting, finish with 'Yours faithfully'.
OUR TOP TIPS
TO WRITE A SUCCESSFUL COVER LETTER
SHOW COMMERCIAL AWARENESS
It’s very important to show your understanding of the sector and knowledge of the firm. This way the employer can see that you took the time to learn about their company and that you are genuinely interested in them and the role.
MIRROR SKILLS IN JOB DESCRIPTION
Carefully read the job description and try mirroring the phrasing they use for their requirements.
This will make them aware that you match the criteria that they are looking for.
INCLUDE VARIOUS EXAMPLES
Backup your skills with examples to show why you are suitable for the role. Only mention them if they are relevant and have a direct relation with the position. Try not to use the same example for two different skills.
PROOFREAD SEVERAL TIMES
Remember to carefully edit and proofread your cover letter before sending it. Particularly if you are sending off many cover letters at once for different companies, it can be easy to forget to include the correct employer and company name so make sure to double check this.