Laura Slingo at TopCV, the largest CV-writing service in the world, shares advice on how to craft a compelling cover letter that complements your planning CV.
With every great CV comes a powerful cover letter. Most job seekers mistake the cover letter as a rewrite of a CV, when in fact, it should be used to expand on the career overview a CV offers.
Here’s how to write a compelling cover letter that complements your planning CV.
Do your research
Cover letters can be tricky to write, but you’ll find the process much easier if you take some time to research beforehand. Doing your research not only gives you the strongest chance of tailoring your cover letter appropriately, but it also makes your letter personal, showing your genuine interest in the role and company.
Before you start writing your letter, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why am I interested in this role?
- How do I match the requirements in the job description?
- What does the company do?
- Who are its main competitors?
- Is there any business or sector news I should be up-to-date with?
- Who is receiving the letter?
Answer these questions as best you can so that it’s easier to highlight the skills and abilities the employer is looking for.
Get the structure right
Now that you have conducted some research, you should feel more prepared and able to start writing your cover letter.
Begin your letter by addressing the correct recipient – this is usually the recruiter or HR manager. If you’re struggling to find a name, consider contacting the company to find out as a name will make your letter more personable. As a last resort, you can write ‘Dear Sir/Madam’.
Paragraph 1: Open your letter with a short paragraph that explains your reason for writing, the role you’re applying for, and where you found the vacancy. If you’re attaching or enclosing your CV, it’s worth saying so at this point too.
Paragraph 2: This next paragraph is all about you. Choose a couple of skills or experiences from your CV that are key requirements listed in the job description. Avoid copying your CV word for word or your application will become rather repetitive. Instead, expand on your points, explaining how these abilities can bring benefits to the employer.
Paragraph 3: Now it’s your chance to wow the employer with your knowledge of the industry and your reasons for wanting to work for the company. Remember to anchor your points to how you will fit in with the organisation and add to its success, rather than state how this opportunity will help you advance your career.
Paragraph 4: Your closing paragraph should be strong. Instead of ending with ‘I look forward to hearing from you’, include a call to action, such as your availability for a callback and your phone number. Then sign off with ‘kind regards’ and your name.
Cover these points in enough detail – too short, and you won’t make the sell, too long, and you may bore the recruiter. Aim for half to an A4 page in length, and you’ll be on the right track.
Adopt a professional format
Cover letters are quite formal documents, and so your formatting should demonstrate this level of professionalism.
If you’re posting your cover letter or attaching it to an email, adopt a traditional business letter format, with your address in the top right-hand corner, the company’s address underneath and on the left, and the date.
If you have chosen to email your application, you could write your cover letter as the body of the email. When doing this, remove the date and addresses, and start your letter by greeting the recipient, like any usual email.
Use the same clean and simple font used to write your CV in 11 or 12-point, and clear paragraphs for a professional feel.
TopCV offers a range of CV-writing services including expertly-written and keyword-optimised CVs, cover letters and LinkedIn profiles. It is currently offering a free CV review to help you land your dream job.