Not sure how to make yourself stand out to recruiters? Check your cover letter…
A well-written cover letter is an essential part of any job application. Which is why highlighting your skills and experience effectively, and tailoring your cover letter to the role you’re applying for, is so important – and could be the difference between getting an interview and getting ignored.
To make sure you know everything there is to know before writing yours, here’s our comprehensive guide to cover letters:
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a written summary of your skills, experience, and suitability for a job.
It’s usually sent to employers alongside your CV, and is traditionally shown as the cover of your application.
How is it different to my CV?
Although your CV and cover letter cover the same ground, they have slightly different purposes – and differ in terms of formatting, layout, and the depth of information included.
Your CV is a comprehensive summary of your professional experience, academic qualifications, and skillset. It should include headings, dates, and bullet points, along with job titles and qualifications.
Your cover letter is used to emphasise why you’re the best candidate for the job. It highlights your interest in the role and company, expands on the skills and experience that relate most to the job you’re applying for, and generally explains your CV in more detail.
Should I address career gaps in my cover letter?
Your cover letter is the perfect place to elaborate on any career gaps you might have in your CV – as long as you do it constructively.
There’s no need to go into great detail – but you also shouldn’t attempt to hide anything. Instead, be honest, proactive, and resourceful with your explanation.
And, aside from emphasising your desire to get back into work, addressing gaps in your CV in your cover letter is a great way to be prepared for any questions or discussions that might come up later on in the application process.
Cover letter dos and don’ts
- Do your research
- Talk about your relevant skills and experience
- Use the job description as a guide
- Include real-life examples to prove your skills
- Follow a clear and concise format
- Use the same cover letter for every job
- Be overly personal
- Make it all about you
- Draw attention to your weaknesses
- Make it too long
How should I structure my cover letter?
Your cover letter should be brief, to the point, and tailored to the role you’re applying for. And to ensure it’s clear and easy to read, structure means everything.
Here’s a rough guideline of how to structure your cover letter:
- Opening paragraph – Start with the basics (e.g. address, recruiter’s name). Then explain what job you’re applying for, and where you found it.
- Second paragraph – Prove that you’re suitable for the job, by briefly describing your relevant skills, experience, and qualifications (using the job description as a guide).
- Third paragraph – Explain what you can do for the company, using practical, quantifiable, and pertinent examples.
- Fourth paragraph – Reiterate.
Cover letter templates
No matter where you’re at in your career, there’s a cover letter template to suit you.
As well as being a great way to guarantee you’re following the right format, they’re also a useful guide to make sure you’re including all the right details when applying for jobs.
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