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Writing an effective cover letter

What is a cover letter and what is it used for?

A cover letter is a letter which is used to apply for a job, whether the job is advertised, or whether you are making a speculative application. The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce you and your CV to the employer and explain why you want the job. It should also highlight your relevant skills and experience, and describe why you are suited to the job role. A cover letter will compliment your CV and provides a professional yet personal touch that just sending out your CV fails to achieve. It is your opportunity to sell yourself, demonstrate your knowledge of the company/organisation you want to work for and make a positive first impression to potential employers.

Why do employers ask for a cover letter?
Employers ask for a cover letter for some of the following reasons:

  • Introduces yourself and your CV to them in a professional manner
  • Demonstrates your ability to follow instructions
  • Provides an indication of your literacy (writing style, punctuation, spelling and grammar)
  • Expands on your skills set
  • Gives your application a personal touch that just sending a CV won’t accomplish
  • Explains why you want the job
  • Proves your initiative and confidence

What information should be included in a cover letter?
The following information should be included in a cover letter:

  • Reasons why you want the job
  • Knowledge of the company/organisation
  • Your availability
  • Skills and qualities specific to the job role
  • Relevant qualifications/work experience
  • Link to blog/website/online portfolio/social media platform if appropriate
  • Your name and address, and the employer’s name and address (if their details are not provided, consider contacting the organisation to get a name of the person to write to)
  • Date
  • Job Reference

Tips for writing an effective cover letter

  • A cover letter should be no more than one page of A4 and 3-4 paragraphs
  • Use white/off-white paper
  • It should be word-processed unless otherwise specified
  • Personalise the cover letter; never send out identical letters to employers
  • Research the company/organisation and mention why you would like to work for them in your cover letter
  • Provide examples to back up your skills set
  • Consider including a link to your online blog, portfolio or website if you are applying for a creative job role
  • End the letter correctly; if you know the name, it’s ‘Yours sincerely’ and if you do not have a name, it’s ‘Yours faithfully’
  • Thank the employer for reading the cover letter
  • If you are emailing the cover letter and CV, send both as two separate attachments
  • Get the cover letter checked by somebody else

If you would like assistance with writing a cover letter for job applications, you can see a Careers Advisor at the College who can support you with writing an effective cover letter. Good luck!

By Sonia Riyait

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