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How to get the job – 3 simple steps to the perfect cover letter

When we’re about to begin the elusive job hunt, we tend to focus almost entirely on getting our CV perfect whilst cover letters tend to be forgotten, or not added to the job application at all. 

This is a huge error, as a cover letter is your chance to shine, showing potential employers what’s unique about you and how you differ from the potentially hundreds of other candidates all vying for the same position at that company. 

However, it can be a tricky document to get right, as a cover letter requires careful preparation and tailoring to the company you are applying to, and therefore can take a lot of time to create. Yet by following a tried and tested template, you’ll be able to simply add and remove information, editing for what’s relevant to a specific role and saving you heaps of time. 

Read on for our tips on how to prepare a stellar cover letter, so you can stand out to prospective employers and take a step towards securing your dream career.

What is a cover letter – and why do you need one?

It’s a common mistake to believe a cover letter is simply repeating the information contained in your CV. This may be why so many people don’t see the value in writing a cover letter at all and leave it out, therefore missing out on the opportunity to catch recruiters’ attention and interest. 

The structure and purpose of the cover letter and CV are completely different. While a CV offers a quick, scannable read of your past employment and educational experience, a cover letter is a professional, formal communication to the hiring department. It introduces you as a person and adds context to the roles you’ve had in the past – explaining why you’re applying to the job, and what you have to offer based on the experiences beyond a simple, bullet-pointed description. 

Simply put, a cover letter builds on your CV and expands upon your past experience, by highlighting your ‘why’ – the reason that you’re interested in the advertised position. A cover letter links your CV experiences, you, and the job you’re applying for – so the application follows a logical thread, and makes sense to the person in charge of the recruitment. It summarises why you are the right person for the job you’ve applied for.

How to write a cover letter in 3 simple steps

Cover letter writing is a specific skill, one that is designed to catch the attention of the reader and help you stand out in a sea of applicants. 

  1. Address: Your cover letter should be specifically tailored to the hiring manager of the company you’re applying to. You can often find this information on the job advertisement, but if not you can do some research on LinkedIn and aim to address the letter to the head of the department where you’re applying for a job. This demonstrates you are assertive, proactive and serious about the application.
  2. Introduction: Writing concisely, introduce yourself and your past skills that mirror the requirements in the job posting. This shows the person hiring that you’ve taken the time to consider and examine both your suitability for the role advertised and the reasons you would like to work for the company.
  3. Call to action: Your cover letter should finish on a strong call to action for the employer to get in touch with you to discuss/progress the application, providing your contact details and explaining that you would like to hear from them to further discuss the information you’ve provided.

Don’t forget – essential cover letter writing tips

  1. Research: Visit the company website, have a look through the news for any recent information that you can tailor your skills to in the cover letter. Getting familiar with the company now will also benefit you if you progress to the interview stages, when you’ll be expected to explain your interest and why you’d like to work for this specific organisation. Once you’ve done your research, you can add reasons why you’re the right fit/where your skills and values align with the company and how this will benefit them.
  2. Length: As a general rule the cover letter should not be more than 5 paragraphs in length, and must be no longer than an A4 page.
  3. Proofread: When you’ve completed your cover letter and you’re feeling happy with it, make sure to read over it several times to check for any errors, and use spell check. It’s also advisable to have a trusted family member or friend read over for their advice or to spot any typos you might have missed.

Cover letter principles

Keep it simple: Use a simple and easy to read font, such as Times New Roman or Arial. Be clear about the job you’re applying to by referencing the job title or number in the job listing. 

Keep it consistent: When reading over your cover letter, keep your CV close by so you can make sure they both line up and there is nothing on either that contradicts the other.

Highlight key skills: Match the skills outlined in the job requirements to your skills and previous work experience.

Highlight successes: Build on your skills by giving a one-line explanation of how you used a skill successfully in a previous role. Explain how you can transfer this success into a role for them.

Personalise and specialise: Don’t be generic – the cover letter should strike a personalised tone, specialised to the company you’re applying for. Generic statements are lazy and don’t tell the employer anything about you; use anecdotes and examples to bring your application to life.

Cover letter examples 2022

Thanks to the magic of the internet, there are thousands of free resources that can help you structure and write your perfect cover letter. Many job search websites offer short cover letter examples. Seek has a free cover letter template, which can be found here. Indeed provides sample cover letters here. Recruitment agencies also have free templates you can download; a great cover letter example can be found on Hudson’s cover letter templates page here.

Are you on the search for a new career or career sector? With a course from My Learning Online, we can help you take your career to the next level! 

If you’ve been debating whether to pursue a new area of interest or build upon an existing skill, we have a variety of short courses suitable for all abilities and across multiple industries. This can help further enhance the quality of both your CV and cover letter too, demonstrating your initiative as you pursue further education of your own volition.

With flexible self-paced study and full tutor support, our online courses have been designed to fit around your current responsibilities. Discover your potential with us today.

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