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How to write a cover letter for a job

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Imagine you have just seen an advert for your dream job, you meet all the listed criteria and have all the necessary qualifications. You have your resume written and ready to send, but then you realise you are going to need a cover letter.

First, we need to understand what a cover letter is and why we might need to write one. A cover letter is a one-page letter which you would send to a prospective employer, along with your resume or Curriculum Vitae, when applying for a position. In this letter, you can introduce yourself and expand on your qualifications, achievements, personality traits, hobbies and skill set which you think will make you the ideal candidate for the position you are applying for. Keep in mind that the cover letter is a supplement to your resume, and not a replacement, so make sure that you do not just repeat the information you have in your resume.

Managers and recruiters can receive a large number of applications for each job and may be dealing with a few different positions at the same time. The cover letter is your opportunity to catch their attention and make them want to take a closer look at the rest of your application.

The letter should be presented on a standard A4 size page, use single line spacing and the text should be no smaller than size 12. The entire letter should be between 200-350 words but we recommend that your letter be as concise as possible. If a recruiter is presented with an overly long cover letter, it may put them off before they have even get started.

Your letter needs to contain an introduction, body paragraph and a conclusion. We will now take a closer look at each of these sections, to give you a clearer idea of what you need to include when writing them.


Header

The header consists of your contact details, including your first name and surname, e-mail address, phone number and any social media links, such as Linkedin, which may be relevant. You do not need to put your physical address or postal address as these should be included in your resume.

You will then put the date, the Company's name, company address, including the name and contact details of the person you are sending the application to and details of the position you are applying for.

Your opening line is crucial and, as far as possible, you should address the recruiter by name. It may take a bit of research from your side, but it is well worth doing and will show initiative on your part. So what is the best way to go about this? The easiest way would be to look up the relevant company and department on an application like Linkedin.


Introduction

You need to pay particular attention to the construction of the introduction. You have to explain why you want the job in a way that immediately grabs the reader's attention. Use words and language which may give the reader some insight into your personality.


Body paragraphs

In the next two or three paragraphs, you can give details about your education, relevant work experience and any particular skill set you have to offer the company, that will set you apart from any other applicants.

You can be quite assertive here, but do not be tempted to brag about your accomplishments or embellish any facts. Be honest and confident and really sell yourself, by making sure you reference all of the attributes you have that may be relevant to the main criteria the recruiter may have listed in the job posting.


Conclusion

Your closing paragraph gives you a final opportunity to summarise all of the main points, and continue to convince the person that you are the right candidate for the job. Be polite and confident by reiterating why you feel you would be a good fit for the company, and finish with an "open" statement, inviting the hiring manager to take some form of action, such as "I look forward to discussing this further with you in an interview".

Sometimes people are unsure of how to sign off a professional letter, you can use any one of the following closings:

  • Sincerely
  • Best regards
  • Thank you
  • Respectfully
  • Kind regards

Then leave a space where you can sign your name, or if you are able to, insert a digital signature, finish with your name typed out in full below the signature.

All that's left for you to do is to re-read your letter, check your spelling and grammar, and attach your resume, and any related documentation which may be required, such as certificates, reference letters etc. You may want to get a friend or colleague to take a look and review your application before sending it off.

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