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Five Steps To Writing A First Class Cover Letter

By Fiona Frudd

Although there is a fair bit of pressure to get this right, there’s no need to panic. SF Recruitment has compiled five top tips to help you create the perfect covering letter:

Address the correct person /

You may have been told when you were young that it’s fine to address official letters to “sir/madam”, but you can definitely do better. This, quite simply, isn’t personal enough – it shows you haven’t bothered to research the role and company enough, and chances are your letter will get lost among all of the others addressed to this mysterious and vague recipient.

Your first task then is to find out exactly who’ll be reading your letter at the other end, so you can address it directly to them. You may get lucky enough to find a name in the job advert, but if not, do a little digging. It’s worth calling up and asking if your initial searches are fruitless.

Be consistent with your CV /

More often than not when you’re applying for a job, you’ll be asked to send in a cover letter and a CV. When you do this, you must make sure both documents are consistent with one another.

First and foremost, it’s important that the information you include on both documents matches up. If you have a gap in your employment history, it should be addressed in your letter. Details matter too, so check the spellings and format of any company names you use.

You also need to consider tone and visual appearance. Try to use similar fonts and colours, as well as heading styles and spacing. These are both professional documents, but if your CV has an element of fun to it – perhaps for a creative job – make sure the accompanying letter has been composed with the same in mind.

Don’t repeat yourself /

That last point notwithstanding, remember that these are two different documents, and the employer doesn’t just want to read the same thing twice.

By all means talk about your jobs and how the experience they’ve given you is relevant to the position in question, but there’s no need to list all of your previous roles in sentences when they’ve already been covered in list format. The same is true for education – unless it’s relevant, it needn’t be in the cover letter.

Get the reader’s attention /

The goal of a cover letter is to sell you as a potential employee; to highlight your skills and experience, and to show what you can offer. You need to make sure it stands out among the reams of paper landing on your prospective manager’s desk.

Think about how you can make your letter different. It may be an idea, for example, to choose a different format – despite the name, it doesn’t have to be in a strictly traditional letter format. Applying for a writing job? Why not write a blog post listing five reasons you deserve an interview? If you’re going for a design position, make use of the visual aspect of your letter – create a brand for yourself.

Check your spelling /

Last but certainly not least, check your spelling. Regardless of industry, most hiring managers are after employees who can communicate effectively, and the first impression they’ll get will be your writing.

We’re not all perfect when it comes to getting ‘effect’ and ‘affect’ the right way round, or knowing when to put ‘I’ before ‘e’, but making the effort to spellcheck properly – perhaps with the help of a suitable friend – is the only way to avoid looking sloppy. Get it wrong and that ‘eye for detail’ you mentioned in your opening line starts to look a bit suspect.

So there we have it, five steps to writing a fantastic, door-opening cover letter. Take these into account and write with honesty and you’ll be getting the interview invitations in no time.

Fiona Frudd
Fiona Frudd
Head of Marketing