Writing a cover letter is one of the most powerful ways of propelling your job application into the interview process. When you take the time to thoughtfully craft your letter, you can bump yourself up to the front of the interview line.
But how do you write a cover letter? What’s the winning formula? Allow us to take you through all the steps you need to take to grab the hiring manager’s attention:
- What is a cover letter?
- How to write a cover letter
- What are the 4 parts to a cover letter?
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a document addressed to the hiring manager that supports your CV and job application. The aim of the cover letter is to capture the hiring manager’s attention, and show them why you deserve an interview in as few words as possible. You don’t want to duplicate what’s written in your CV, but instead provide additional information and detail that helps support your application – information that perhaps didn’t fit into your CV.
How to write a cover letter
Use the hiring manager’s name
Ideally, you’ll find out the hiring manager’s name and address your cover letter to them directly. You may have to do a bit of digging on the company website or call reception to find out, but taking this step shows you’ve put a bit of extra care into the letter instead of just addressing it to ‘Sir/Madam’.
Send as a PDF document
Cover letters should be written up as a separate document, rather than as part of an email. To make life easier for the hiring manager, attach the cover letter as a PDF. This way, the hiring manager doesn’t have to worry about converting the document into a different format for readability. They can simply download the attachment and read your letter!
Follow a format letter layout
You want your cover letter to be as professional as possible so remember to follow the layout of a formal letter.
Aspects of a formal cover letter
- Hiring manager’s name and address
- Your name and address
- Letter signed off with ‘Yours faithfully’ if you know the hiring manager’s name
- Signed with your full name
- Stick to one A4 page (check out our blog on how to keep your cover letter to one page!)
What are the 4 parts of a cover letter?
Generally speaking, your cover letter should contain 4 parts or paragraphs: the first paragraph lets them know your reason for writing; the second introduces your background and skills; the third states why you want to work for them and feel you’re a strong candidate; and the fourth thanks them for their time.
- Paragraph 1 – introduction
- Paragraph 2 – key skills and experience
- Paragraph 3 – why you want the position
- Paragraph 4 – close with a thanks
The opening paragraph should be no longer than 2 sentences. It should state why you’re writing (to apply for a position), what position you’re applying for, and where you found the vacancy advertised.
In this paragraph, you’ll want to dive straight into your key skills and experience. This isn’t about listing all of your skills – remember to keep it relevant to the role. If you’re not sure which skills are relevant to the role, scan the job advert to find out.
So now that you’ve demonstrated your key skills and experience in the previous paragraph, you can use the fourth paragraph to explain why you want to work for this company specifically, and in this particular role. Perhaps the company is a market leader, or their values and mission align with yours. Either way, this is an opportunity to really tailor your cover letter and let the hiring manager know you’re talking specifically to them.
The final paragraph should round off your letter, thanking the hiring manager for considering your application. Leave them with a call to action, and let them know you look forward to hearing from them soon.
Prepare for takeoff!
Each cover letter you write will be different for each job you apply to. Yes, this means more work for you – but this is what you need to do to land that dream role and stand out from the other candidates! Just remember to make your cover letter stand out with impressive examples of your achievements.
Once you’ve landed yourself an interview, don’t forget to practise the most common interview questions!