How To Write A Cover Letter In 2020
Plus A Free Cover Letter Template
Leigh Gillatt • Careers Advice
HOW TO WRITE A COVER LETTER
Plus Free To Download Template
A cover letter is one of the most important opportunities you will get to connect with an employer or HR manager. It is the one and only opportunity you are likely to have to grab their attention and make them want to meet you instead of many of the other CVs they may have piled up in front of them.
Representing your career interests and highlighting your most relevant skills and experiences, a professionally written cover letter can say a lot about you as a person and as a prospective employee. So, you should have in mind that a prospective employer will be looking for your attention to detail.
Well-written covering letters are also particularly effective for sending a speculative application to an employer who you’d like to be employed by and may be of some use for explaining any personal circumstances or anomalies in any job application.
Still, many continue to state that employers don't really value cover letters, spouting statements like,
Cover letters, do they actually get read?
but we must all learn to remember that the HR manager is a person, not just a mailbox or an email address to send a job application to, after all they themselves at stages in their careers will have had to have applied for job vacancies much in the same way.
For this reason many of them actually put a large amount of value on cover letters as a means of gaining a clear insight into the type of person you may be and your suitability to their requirements; miss this opportunity and they'll have moved on to the next candidate!
However, most HR managers seem to agree that they do not value the typical ‘generic’ cover letter.
So after hours spent crafting a great CV, just how do you write a cover letter?
In today's intensely competitive job market first impressions count and so we must all up our game to stay ahead!
Here’s our advice for a cover letter that demands the attention of a HR manager / Employer:
Do Your Research Before You Start Writing
First things first, you need to do your research.
Take some time to look into the company and role you’re applying for – and then use this information to adapt your cover letter accordingly.
Doing this research beforehand will also help give you an idea of the appropriate tone to use in the cover letter and of any points you should mention, bearing in mind such factors as the organisation’s sector, ethos and values.
The important things you should research before writing are:
- Who will be receiving and reading your letter?
- The skills and experience mentioned in the job description
- What does the company do?
- Who are the company’s competitors?
- The sector and any recent news or trends
- The organisation’s target audience
- What are the essential skills for the role?
Based on the answers you find to your research questions, you’ll then be able to express to the prospective employer within your cover letter how your skills and abilities, and potentially values, align with those of the required role and company.
How To Format A Cover Letter
It’s essential that your cover letter is well-presented, concise, and to-the-point.
But pay particular attention to:
- A professional business layout is important, addressed to a named individual - This information is easier to find than it has ever been before, so you really don’t have many excuses for getting any names wrong or not addressing the cover letter personally to the employer.
- Start with your address and contact details in the top right-hand corner - Make sure your contact details are sensible – email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org won’t make you look very professional! You should then follow this with the address of the company you’re applying for and the date further down and on the left-hand side.
- Aim for a maximum of one side of A4 - preferably half a page if possible, and using the same font style as you used in your CV.
- State the Position You Are Apply For - Sounds obvious doesn't it, but you wouldn't believe how many applications Diverse Employment receives which say "I would like to apply for the role advertised", this may do the job in small companies, but for larger companies they may have more than one vacancy at any given time, adding unnecessary confusion to your application.
What Do You Say In A Cover Letter?
What To Say
- Briefly introduce yourself - State what position you are applying for and where you saw it advertised. For a speculative letter, include the type of work you are seeking.
- Start with a strong intro to draw the reader in - The first sentence of a cover letter will either grab an employer’s attention or lose it, so it needs to cleverly prove that you understand what their current requirements are. In the first paragraph communicate your unique selling points that will help them solve their problems, such as relevant sector experience, skills, qualifications and achievements, instead of the generic “I would like to apply for the role of XXX.”
- Express An Interest In Their Company - Let the employer know why you picked their company, this will allow them to see that you have a genuine interest in working for them.
- Tell Them Why They Should Chose You - As with our generic cover letter above, don't just write that you think you are suitable for the position, tell them why you think you're suitable. Provide evidence of your key strengths by referring to experiences on your CV. Aim for your key strengths to reflect the requirements of the employer and position.
- Indicate your availability for an interview.
- Sign off professionally - Conclude the main body of the cover letter with a power phrase such as, “I would like to discuss in greater detail the value I could bring to your organisation,” and close with the formal and widely accepted “Best regards” or “Sincerely”.
If you need further help with the layout, formatting and an example of what to write in a cover letter use the button below to download our free cover letter template:
What Not To Do In A Cover Letter
- Don’t drivel on - keep it brief. The employer is usually strapped for time and will only be interested in the concrete facts rather than quirkiness or clichés.
- Don’t just repeat what you’ve said on your CV or LinkedIn profile - a cover letter should complement these other job application materials, and should really server as a means to support and enhance your overall profile as a prospective employee.
- Don’t write in the third person - A cover letter is, after all as its name suggests, a letter, and if written correctly as described above, addressed directly to the employer. You are essentially using this document as a personal marketing tool, and while a cover letter’s tone of voice should be professional, it should also be sufficiently conversational to engage the employer and communicate your personality, values and interest in the role.
Sending A Cover Letter In 2020
With today’s technology, it’s common to send a cover letter – and a whole job application, for that matter – online or by email.
With this in mind, if you just need to send your cover letter as an attachment, then write it as explained above, but when it comes to saving it, make sure you save it as a PDF file; this will allow any computer &/or smart-phone mobile device to be able to view the file, and as a bonus all of your text/font formatting will be preserved as you intended it to look.
If however you’ve been asked to send your cover letter as an email, your method will need to be slightly changed. First, make sure you format the subject line of your email like this:
Application for [Job Title] [(Job Ref No.)] – [Your Name]
Application for Recruitment Consultant (REC001) – Leigh Gillatt
Once you’ve done that, then there’s also a few changes to make to the layout of your cover letter. The core paragraphs can be the same as an A4 copy of your cover letter, but for the email version you should remove the heading and footer elements such as the addresses, date and signature.
The principle of a successful cover letter is simple: it needs to be sufficiently interesting to an employer to leave them feeling compelled to find out more by reading your CV, before finally deciding to call you in for an interview. By following the advice above, you can help to make yourself a more attractive candidate so that you have a greater likelihood of being shortlisted for interview.