How to Write a Great Cover Letter

May 4, 2021

In this post, we share top tips on how to write a great cover letter.

One of the most important parts of the job application process is your cover letter, as it allows you to sell yourself directly to your potential future employers, helping you to stand out amongst the competition for the job you are all applying for. Your cover letter should also sell you as a person, something your CV, essentially a list of achievements and qualifications will struggle to do. 

To write the most optimal cover letter possible, you will need to combine different factors, such as an effective structure, the relevant qualities that will make you a good fit for the job, as well as demonstrating how motivated you will be in this role. 

1. Structure your cover letters effectively

The first paragraph of your cover letter should explain why you are applying, what position you are applying to, and how you found out about the job opportunity.

The first of these helps to establish you as highly motivated, something that will give you an edge over those who do not emphasise this, as employers will obviously prefer applicants who show little enthusiasm.

The second is also important as it makes it clear that you know exactly what position you are aiming for, and are aware of what qualities are needed. 

Your second and third paragraphs should be about what skills you possess and how they make you well suited to the job being applied for. You will need to decide for yourself which skills are most relevant, although a lot of the time this will be fairly obvious, such as emphasising IT skills for a job that requires significant hours working on a computer. 

This shows the person reading your cover letter that you have done the proper research, further proving that you are genuinely interested in the position. On the flip side, emphasising irrelevant skills shows the reader that you know little about what is needed to fulfill the role, and will be quickly rejected. 

The final paragraph of your cover letter should be about you personally, and more about why you think that you would be the ideal candidate, although you need to ensure that you do not go too far off-topic and discuss things that are not important to the job. 

Your cover letter should be no longer than one page long. While you may be tempted to write more in an attempt to include every possible thing that you believe makes you perfectly suited to the role, you need to take into account the person reading the letter itself.

The reader will likely not have enough time to comb through every small detail you include, especially if there are a large number of other applications. It is therefore your decision for which qualities you prioritise over others. 

For a better idea on how to structure your cover letter, watch this video on the topic. 

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2. Demonstrate Your Employability skills Throughout 

If you are struggling to come up with skills you think employers will value, the CBI’s list of employability skills, is a good place to start. These employability skills are business awareness, communication, enterprise, IT, numeracy, problem-solving, resilience, self-management, and teamwork. 

These are important to your cover letter as if you can provide examples of you possessing these qualities it shows the reader that you have the practical skills to do the job you are applying for. This is far more impressive to employers than simply talking about your degree, which is something that is not always directly relevant to the role you will end up working at.

You will have learned and improved on many of these skills during your time at both school and university and can use examples from there in your cover letter. You just need to be careful to make sure that these examples are both relevant and concise. The latter is important as if you discuss one anecdote in too much detail you will not have enough room to discuss others, possibly giving the reader the impression that that is the only relevant quality you possess, making it less likely that you are accepted. 

One thing to keep in mind is that different jobs will require different skillsets. Therefore, you should write a new cover letter for every job you apply for, emphisising the most relevant skills each time. This is important as discussing fewer, but more relevant skills will be more useful than more skills that are not directly relevant to the job you are applying to. 

3. Balance

Something you will need to be aware of while writing your cover letter is the balance between modesty and selling you and your skills to your potential employers. 

If you downplay your abilities too much, then the person reading your cover letter might assume that you are less competent than you actually are, stopping you from being seriously considered for a job you are definitely qualified to do. Therefore, you should ensure that you give yourself the full credit for your own achievements, while simultaneously ensuring that everything you say in your cover letter is true.

The latter is connected to the other side of this balancing act, which is making sure that the content of your cover letter is believable. This is because if the reader believes that you are exaggerating your own achievements, you are unlikely to pass this stage of the application process. 

If you are unsure on how to exactly word your cover letter, it is perfectly fine to ask friends and family to look over it. They will be able to give a second opinion, and will be able to correct you if they fell you are either under or over exaggerating your achievements. 

4. Proofread Your Cover Letter

This may sound obvious but it is important to check your cover letter before you submit it as part of your application. You are highly likely to be rejected of there are any obvious errors, especially if written communication is a large part of thee job you are applying for. 

Again, having friends or family check a draft of your cover letter is a good way to ensure that your cover letter is free of these errors. 

You may also wish to update your cover letter if you achieve something worth writing about in between drafts. This is especially important to keep in mind if you have a big deadline coming up, the result of which will look impressive and shows skills that would be relevant at the job in question. 

Summary: How to write a great cover letter

Overall, to write a great cover letter, you need the correct structure, to demonstrate that you have the correct abilities to do the job you are applying for, while also striking a balance between selling yourself to your potential employers, while also ensuring that everything you say is completely honest. For more posts like this to help you with applying for a job, check out the Graduate Coach Blog

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By Sam Sheridan
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

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