What’s tricky about a cover letter, is that you need to balance the need to show your personality and make an impression, with the equally important requirement to show you’re a great fit for the job.
What people also forget to note though, is that writing your cover letter isn’t actually a mystery or an art form… You can do it in a fairly structured way that makes sure you hit key objectives each time. You need to tailor your cover letter for each job you apply for, so becoming quite methodical and efficient can be a huge help.
Here’s a quick overview of how to approach your cover letters:
Paragraph 1: Purpose of your letter
State the position of interest and make reference to how you came to know of the vacancy. If you are writing a speculative or unsolicited letter, discuss what kind of position you are seeking and why. Keep this paragraph quite short, i.e., two to three lines long.
Paragraph 2: Why you want this job
Research the company and refer to your knowledge of what the organisation does. Tell them why you want to work for them, i.e., awards they have won or projects they are involved in. Keep the focus on the employer and write for their interests e.g. do not state that this will, ‘give me an opportunity to build on my skills.’
Paragraph 3: Sell your specialist skills that are relevant to the job
Highlight appropriate qualifications, achievements and work experience relevant to the position. Provide specific examples of where or how you have developed your skills.
Paragraph 4: Sell your general skills that are relevant to the job
Give specific examples of how you have demonstrated skills relevant to the job: These could be:
- Communication & Interpersonal Skills
- Initiative & Enterprise
Use examples from all aspects of your life, such as university team projects, engagement in sports, sport or society club engagement, voluntary work, paid work, etc.
Paragraph 5: Closing
Thank the employer for their time and consideration – this shows respect and displays your manners. Mention that you would be grateful for the opportunity to attend an interview or discuss your application further and, if appropriate, state your availability. For unsolicited letters, state when you will call to follow up.
Want more guidance and practice? Complete the online Cover Letter module (shown below).