How to Write the Winning Cover Letter

By on April 20th, 2016


If you’re getting ready to flee the education nest this summer, chances are you’ll be writing a lot of cover letters. A cover letter is an essential part of the application for any job, internship or placement you might go after. Besides mentioning the things that can’t go on your CV, a cover letter gives you the chance to really sell yourself and make your CV seem worth a look, so it’s important to get it right.

So how do you write a winning cover letter?

1. Know industry expectations.

Before you start, you may want to familiarise yourself with the expected formats and ‘rules’ of your chosen industry when it comes to contacting employers. A letter to a law firm, for example, is likely to follow a different format to one for a gallery or creative agency. Get to know what’s expected in your field so you know how to structure your letter.

2. Address to a real person.

Avoid those generic openers like ‘To whom it may concern’ or ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. Find out the name of the person your letter is going to and address it directly to them to get your letter off to the best start. A good way to do this is do a ‘People’ search on LinkedIn, or even use Twitter. Look for Recruitment or Logistic Managers, Head of Staffing or even Head of HR for smaller companies.

3. Get right to the point.

You want to grab the reader’s attention with a succinct, concise and to-the-point opening statement. Say which role you are applying for, and if you know someone at the company or was recommended by someone, mention this here too. Try not to waffle or go off on a tangent – your recruiter won’t make it past the first paragraph! 3. Dump the clichés. Forget clichéd sentences such as “I’m an excellent team player” and “I am passionate and enthusiastic about…” – these phrases will be used on countless other letters. Try to stay as natural as you can, and if you are enthusiastic or passionate, try to make it relevant to the interests of the employer or company.

4. Make it about the company, not you.

Rather than talking about what you hope to get out of the position, talk about what you can do for the company. Every employer wants to know what you can offer and bring to the position – not how they can be a stepping stone to your dream career. Be specific in your justifications – use the job description to see what’s required and provide examples of how you can meet this demand.

5. Make the company feel special.

Give specific reasons for why you are writing to that company in particular – make it clear they are not just another placement on your list! Let them know what it is you like about that company so much or the role they have played in your life so far. Showing a bit of background knowledge here is also a good shout.

6. Tell a story.

People – no matter who they are – can always relate to storytelling. Tell a little story about what brought you to this company – the link you have with it or what made you apply. You can make this as personal as you want. In fact, the more personal the better, as recruiters want to see they are dealing with a human being and not a robot.

7. Spellcheck and grammar.

Even if you are a prolific writing genius, everyone is capable of a missing comma or misspelt word. Always run a spelling and grammar check before sending your letter out – otherwise you can expect it to fall at the first hurdle.

8. Finally, be yourself.

Don’t feel you have to stick to the boring, stuffy template you found on the internet. Be ready to show a bit of flair and let your own personality shine through. In creative industries, a bit of quirk is more than welcomed. As long as you deliver the information the recruiter wants to know and remain polite and respectful, they should be charmed by your individuality.

Here are some additional resources which you may find useful: – Exeter University – The London Imperial – Cambridge University

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