How to write a great covering letter for a job application. 8 helpful tips on writing a perfect cover letter for a dream job.
#1 Push your strengths
Your covering letter can draw attention to your most relevant skills and achievements. You can provide more information on the skills and experience that are relevant to the job. You could explain how a particular experience helped you develop the skills you’ve put in your CV. For example, ‘doing the weekly stock take helped me to sharpen my maths skills and spot sales trends’.
#2 Make it personal
Don’t send out identical covering letters without any detail about the employer. It’s much better to show that you’ve done your research on the company and know what they do. Make it clear you’ve thought about which skills they want and how you can provide them. It’s better to spend time writing ten personalised covering letters than sending out 50 identical ones.
#3 Consider explaining CV gaps
You can use a covering letter to explain gaps in your CV such as unemployment, gap years or time spent in prison.
Don’t be worried about mentioning difficult subjects like this even though you’re trying to sell your positive points. It’s a good opportunity to explain how you dealt with these difficult times and learnt from them. Put yourself in the employer’s shoes – if you say nothing on your covering letter and the employer reads ‘2002 to 2005 – unemployed’ on your CV, they haven’t got anything positive to grab hold of, and they might draw their own conclusions.
Whatever the reason for gaps in your CV, explain what you’ve learned. If you’ve been unemployed you could mention how organised you were in your approach to jobhunting, training courses you’ve been on, or any volunteering you’ve done.
If you’ve been in prison you could describe any learning courses or other activities you got involved in. If it’s relevant, you could also describe the circumstances leading up to your offence, but keep it brief. You could also explain that you’ve learned from it, and now you’ve changed.
#4 Provide information about your disability
If you’ve got a disability, it’s up to you whether you mention this on the covering letter or CV or not – you’re not legally obliged to do so. Although disclosing your disability at application stage can give you an opportunity to say which skills you’ve learned as a result of your disability.
#5 Use the right language and tone
When applying for most jobs you should use clear, business like language. However, if you’re applying for a creative role, such as an advertising copywriter, you could show your originality and word skills in the language and tone you use. Use your judgment, based on what you can find out about the company and their approach to recruiting.
#6 Check it and then check it again!
Always check your covering letter for spelling and grammar errors. Don’t rely on word processing spell checkers, as they don’t pick everything up.
It might help if you leave some time after completing the letter before checking it. This way you’ll look at it with fresh eyes. When you’ve been working on one piece of work for a while, it can be difficult to look at it objectively.
Even better, you could ask someone else to check it over for you. They’ll be reading it for the first time (just like the employer will be) so they’ll also be able to check that it flows well.
#7 Keep it brief
Keep your covering letter to a maximum of five short paragraphs. This makes it easy for employers to read it quickly.
#8 Keep the format consistent
If you use the same font and text size on your covering letter and CV it will look neat and professional.
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