Writing a winning cover letter is easier than you think. Whether you need a refresh of the basics or you’re looking for original ideas, our guide will lend you a hand during the stressful application process.
Formatting A Winning Cover Letter
Almost all cover letters will need a standardised format, much like that of a formal handwritten letter. In the age of email and Facebook you’ve probably not had to put pen to paper for a while, so here’s how to do it!
Make sure you include the date of writing, your name, and address in the top right-hand corner. The employer’s name and address should then sit below this on the left-hand side.
Your cover letter doesn’t need to be longer than a page. It’s likely your potential employer will have to rifle through hundreds of applications and they are more likely to skip yours if it takes too much time to go through.
Equally, avoid writing large chunks of text as this can be off-putting for a busy reader. Use short paragraphs to give your cover letter direction and structure as well as make it easier to skim without missing important details.
Greeting And Signing Off
The “salutation” of a letter can be a tricky one.
Job applications often give a name for the letter address, but if not try “Dear Sir/Madam” or something more casual like “To the team” – depending on the company.
You can also stand out by calling the company and asking to whom the application should be addressed. This only takes a couple of minutes and could be the difference between being invited to an interview or having your letter tossed in the recycling bin.
Feeling brave? Try skipping the salutation and going straight into the letter. This can be better than the same old “To whom it may concern”.
When it comes to signing-off, make sure it pairs well with your greeting. If you start with a formal “Dear Sir/Madam”, sign off with ‘Yours faithfully’. If you started with their name, use ‘Yours sincerely’.
The most important thing is to match the tone of the advertisement. If they seem casual and fun-loving, greet the team and sign off with a ‘Look forward to hearing from you’!
Build It Up
A Snappy Introduction
Your cover letter should fill one page and ideally have three paragraphs – your introduction, why they should hire you, and why you chose them.
In your introduction, clearly state which role you are applying for and how you found the advert. Keep it simple, clear and catchy, and no more than a couple of sentences.
If you want your winning cover letter to really stand-out, open with something unique like a quote from a previous employer or a catchy fact about a past project.
Why Choose You?
No matter how perfect your format, you won’t have a winning cover letter if you miss out key content. Remember your letter should be a continuation of your CV and an opportunity to demonstrate why you’re perfect for the role and the company.
Modesty makes your cover letter boring so don’t be afraid to really sell yourself! Explain how the roles and skills you listed in your CV would be useful for the job advertised.
Use your cover letter to show off what you know about their company. For example, offer a comment on their previous work or what you admire about the company’s ethos and why.
Also, remember to always throw in some keywords they have used in their job advertisement to show you’ve read it carefully and understand what they’re asking for.
Why Choose Them?
Showing a potential employer why you’re perfect for them is all well and good, but why are they perfect for you?
This question makes a winning cover letter. Be honest – what first attracted you to the company? Which previous projects do you admire? What do you think they can offer you?
Just make sure this doesn’t become sickly fan mail but further demonstrates you will fit into the company and role.
Make It A Winner
Personalising your cover letter can really show the effort you’ve put into researching a company and reveal a bit of your personality. If your potential employer is more relaxed, look through their social media and on their website to personalise your application. Look for things like an office dog, office-birthday traditions or local haunts to mention in your letter.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up. If you are applying for a role in the creative sector, for example, it can work in your favour to think outside the box. So if you’re applying for a media position, why not make your cover letter into a video? Or if you’re applying for a marketing role, you could mock-up a marketing campaign with yourself as the product!
While we wouldn’t recommend anything too radical for a traditional company, opting for a quirky approach can really show off your talent and originality.
Writing A Winning Cover Letter
Congratulations! You’re now an expert at writing eye-catching and personal cover letters. Whether you’re trying for a traditional or creative role just remember the basics, stick to the content and splash in a few original ideas to really catch your future employer’s eye.
Andrew Arkley is the founder of PurpleCV, one of the UK’s leading CV writing providers – with over 15 years’ experience in HR and recruitment at a senior level and having conducted thousands of interviews, he knows precisely what it takes to land a job! Andrew has personally written over 3000 CVs and since its inception, PurpleCV has grown rapidly to encompass a UK-based team committed to providing market-leading CVs for any jobseeker or individual.