Love them or hate them, cover letters are likely to take up a fair bit of your time when you’re applying for jobs.
Instead of seeing them as time thieves, try to look at cover letters like they’re an additional opportunity on top of your CV to show off why you should be hired… because they are! This is where you can bring your CV to life, so don’t shy away.
In case you’re struggling, here is a guide telling you everything you need to know about cover letters, from what they are, who they’re for, and how to write them.
What Is A Cover Letter?
In short, a cover letter is a document that you send to an employer along with a CV, usually as a part of a job application. In most cases, your cover letter will come before your CV on the page. Your cover letter should be a written overview of your experience and skills related to the job that you are applying for.
Do I Need To Send A Cover Letter?
Unless the employer specifically states that you should send a cover letter with your CV, you do not need to send one. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Some employers won’t give a job application the time of day if it doesn’t include a cover letter. Seeing as though a cover letter is a chance to show the employer why they should take you on, try to always send one if you can.
There are times when you shouldn’t send a cover letter though. The first is when the employer specifically asks that you don’t, the second is when you’re applying for a job through an online platform and there’s no option to submit a cover letter, and the third and final circumstance is if you don’t have time to write a good cover letter (having no cover letter is better than a poorly-written cover letter).
What Information Is It Supposed To Include?
Where possible, your cover letter should always include some of your personal details such as your name, telephone number, and email address. If you can, try to address your cover letter to the person who’s hiring. That may not always be possible, in which case you can address the letter to ‘whoever it may concern’ or ‘sir/madam’.
Then, include where you found the job vacancy, what your employment skills and experience are, why you’re a good fit for the job, and how you could benefit the company in the role you’re applying for. Also, if you have gaps in your employment history that you’d like to clarify, you’re well within your rights to do that in your cover letter.
At the end of your letter, always sign off by thanking the employer for their time.
Can I Add In Extras?
Absolutely! There are lots of other skills that you may have and can include in your cover letter. For extras, you can talk about your soft skills like your creativity, ability to work in a team, your communication skills, and your research skills. Regardless of what skills you’re writing about, try to write about how those skills will fit the job you’re applying for instead of just listing them.
How Long Does It Need To Be?
The length of your cover letter will vary from time to time, and the employer you’re writing to may have specified how long they want it to be.
Generally speaking, a cover letter should be between half a page and one page of A4. A cover letter longer than that may put off busy employers from reading it properly. If in doubt, aim for around 300 words.
What Are The Best Practices For Writing A Cover Letter?
Try not to use a standard template. It is tempting - and quicker - to use a standard template that you find through a search engine, but employers may be getting hundreds of job applications through and, ideally, yours should stand out. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but give it your own spin.
Always proofread your cover letter before you send it. And proofread it again. And again. If you can ask someone else to proofread it for you, too - even better!
Brainstorm ideas before you put your fingers to the keyboard. Imagine how devastating it would be if you missed out some of your best skills on the cover letter for your dream job! Spend some time brainstorming your skills and experience and how they may fit the job you’re applying for. This should really help with the overall process and it makes sure that you’re not missing anything out.
Don’t repeat your CV. This is one of the most common cover letter errors! Your CV and your cover letter should complement each other, but not be carbon copies. Your CV shows off your experience and skills, your cover letter shows why your experience and skills are relevant to the job you’re applying for - it’s your first conversation with the employer!
Now that you know when and how to write an excellent cover letter, brush up on your job interview prowess here.