When it comes to job applications, your CV may be the star, but your cover letter is the supporting actor that can make all the difference. A well-written cover letter is your chance to introduce yourself, showcase your qualifications, and demonstrate your genuine interest in the position you’re applying for.
What is a Cover Letter?
A cover letter is a written document that candidates submit alongside their job application and CV. This letter provides the employer with an introduction to the applicant, their qualifications and experience. It also gives candidates the opportunity to express their interest in the job and the company. If you’ve never written one before and are not sure what sort of information you’re supposed to include, search online for templates and examples to get you started.
The Importance of Including a Cover Letter in your Job Application
While a CV provides all the information about your skills and work history that a hiring manager would want to know, a personalised cover letter gives you the chance to convey your personality and express your enthusiasm for the role. By tailoring your cover letter to the company, you can show the hiring manager why you’re a good fit for the job and how your personal values align with the company’s. If there are gaps in your CV, the cover letter also gives you a chance to explain them.
Writing a Cover Letter
Research the Company
Before you begin writing, research the company thoroughly. Understand its values, culture, and mission as well as what sort of candidate they’re looking for to fill the role. Ensure to explain how you plan on using your skills and experience in the role and convey how your own personal values align with theirs. Not only does this show that you’ve done your research but it lets the hiring manager know that it was the company that caught your attention and not just the role.
Address the Hiring Manager
Whenever possible, address your cover letter to the hiring manager or a specific contact within the company. It shows that you've taken the time to personalise your application and aren’t just sending the same cover letter to every job you apply for. Usually, the name of the person dealing with the application process will be shown somewhere in the advert but if you don’t manage to find a name, opt for something professional such as ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ instead.
Start with a Strong Introduction
Begin with a captivating opening paragraph that grabs the reader's attention. You can do this by starting with a compelling anecdote or a statement that immediately demonstrates your passion for the industry. Hiring managers read a lot of cover letters so it’s important that both your CV and cover letter are memorable when it’s time for them to shortlist candidates to invite for interviews.
Highlight Achievements and Qualifications
In the body of the letter, discuss your qualifications and experiences that make you an ideal candidate for the job. Expand on the skills you’ve listed in your CV by using specific examples. If you’re a student searching for your first job, consider using examples from your studies and projects you’ve worked on instead. As well as highlighting your skills, you should also include details of any previous professional achievements. You can do this by providing quantifiable metrics to demonstrate the impact you had in your previous role.
Express your excitement about the opportunity and the company and explain why you're eager to contribute to their success. Hiring managers want to see that you’re passionate about the industry, company and job. Showing enthusiasm for all of these will ensure you come across as positive and forward-thinking, which will increase your chances of being invited for an interview.
Use a Professional Tone
Whilst conveying your enthusiasm for the role, it’s important that you maintain a professional, mature and respectful tone throughout your cover letter. Avoid using overly casual language or slang as this will undermine your message. Remember, you’ve never never spoken to the employer before so this is their first impression of you.
Proofread Before Sending
As well as keeping your cover letter concise and easy to read, you should ensure that you comb over the document and iron out any clunky sentences and correct any typos. You can do this using an online spell and grammar check. If a hiring manager comes across spelling mistakes, they may instantly disregard your application regardless of how skilled or suitable for the job you are. If you don’t enjoy reading your own writing, ask a friend or peer to proofread it for you.
Address Potential Concerns
If you have any gaps in your CV or other potential red flags, address them honestly but positively in your cover letter. Whether you took a career break or a gap year, it’s important to let hiring managers know why you took time away from work so they don’t draw their own conclusions.
Customise Each Letter
Avoid using a generic cover letter template for multiple applications. You should customise each letter to match the specific job and company you're applying to. Hiring managers read a lot of CVs and cover letters so they’ll know whether or not you’ve tailored yours to their company. With that being said, don’t make the mistake of matching the job description word for word or it will look like you’ve just copied it into your letter.
End your cover letter with a short, strong and polite closing paragraph. In your final sentences, express your eagerness to discuss your qualifications further in an interview and thank the employer for considering your application. If you don’t hear anything back after submitting your application, don’t hesitate to send a follow-up email to touch base on your application.
A well-written cover letter can be the key that unlocks the door to your dream job. It's a chance to showcase your personality, qualifications, and enthusiasm that’s difficult to convey with a CV alone.
Here at Platform Recruitment we've been developing our expertise for over 12 years, making us a leading recruitment agency based in North London.
We currently have clients with live roles, looking for exciting new talent to join their team – contact us now to find out more and see which opportunities we have for you in Software Development, DevOps, Mechanical, Hardware & Electronics, Life Sciences, Data Science, Manufacturing, QA and Engineering – as well as management, operations and support function roles.