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How to Write a Brilliant Cover Letter

Updated on May 8, 2014

Why Bother?

Around a quarter of Recruiters would reject a CV or resume if it wasn't accompanied by a cover letter yet 100% of the Employers and Recruiters I spoke with when researching for my book CV Creator said they would like to receive and would favour applications with a good quality cover letter.

If sending a cover letter is almost guaranteed to increase your chances of being taken seriously and minimises the risk of ending in the reject pile substantially then it would be fair to say that it is common sense to include one whether you are asked for one or not.

Cover letters are very powerful in the quest to get your CV or resume read by Recruiters and should be included regardless of whether you have been asked to send one.

They are your opportunity to sell yourself into the role and should be customised to the job description and company.

Taking the time to create good quality, content rich cover letters will save you time in the long run and increase your chances of success.

So what do Recruiters like to read in a cover letter?

What should it include?

How long should it be?

Personalise It

Just as your Personal Statement is your window of opportunity to showcase your strengths, your Cover Letter is your primary chance to shine. It's another chance to dangle the carrot and create enough intrigue, excitement and gut feeling so the Recruiter will take the time to read your application.

Make it personal to you and absolutely make it relevant to the job description and company however each Cover Letter should include certain key elements so you can use a template for information that will be the same for each application or can be edited accordingly.

Each cover letter should have the following key elements:

  • Your name & address
  • Date
  • Employer/ Recruiter name & address
  • Dear (name)
  • The role you are applying for
  • Why you are applying
  • Why you would be the ideal candidate
  • Why you want to work for the company
  • The impact you made on a previous company
  • Some key skills or experience relative to the role
  • Yours faithfully
  • Your signature
  • Your name

Who For & Who From?

Your first step to personalising the Cover Letter is to find out the name of the person who will be reading it. If this is not on the job advertisement, a quick telephone call give you the information.

Always include the name of the Recruiter as opposed to Sir, Madam or the impersonal "To whom it may concern" which can be viewed as lazy especially if you are trying to demonstrate that you have good communication skills and pay attention to detail!

Use the appropriate title; Mr Smith, Mrs Brown, Ms Adams and avoid using Christian names until after you have met the person and they have invited you to use their first name. It is unlikely that you will ever be penalised for politeness and etiquette.

When you sign off at the end of your letter then use Yours faithfully.

To Post or Email?

Most applications can be sent online via email however don't use this method to cut corners. Using titles and full addresses in your cover letter whether it is emailed or posted will ensure you stand out for all the right reasons.

If emailing your application, include your Cover Letter as an attachment and use the body of the email to state that your application and Cover letter are attached. It is more likely to get printed and kept with your CV or resume by doing this and of course looks more professional.

The job advertisement will usually detail how and where to send so do ensure you follow these instructions. It is common for applications to be rejected as they were sent by post when the advert stated they should be emailed. It may seem like a small detail but could be a path to destination dustbin.

Why They Should Hire You

Your cover letter should avoid any meaningless phrases or clich├ęs such as team player, good time keeper, pays attention to detail, proven track record and so forth unless you can substantiate these claims.

Your cover letter should include:

  • Why you are applying
  • Why you would be great
  • Your skills and experience relative to the job description
  • Include some of what you know about the company and how you see yourself in the role.


Top Tips For Creating Your Brilliant Cover Letter

  • Send your Cover Letter on good quality paper
  • Use A4 size
  • Keep the length to a few paragraphs; you are not writing a book
  • Keep the type in the same font and style as your CV or resume
  • Do your homework and research the company
  • Don't forget to sign it!
  • Keep it succinct and make every word work positively for you
  • Ensure the date on your letter is the date you sent it

Quick Poll

Do you send a personalised cover letter with every application?

See results


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