In today's competitive job market, the importance of a well-crafted cover letter cannot be overstated. In fact — research by ResumeLab found 72% of recruiters expect a cover letter even if the job advertisement says they’re optional. But how can you write one that stands out?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps on how to write a cover letter, with examples and tips for crafting the perfect one. We’ll also answer frequently asked questions to increase your chances of bagging your dream job.
What is a cover letter?
A cover letter is your introduction. It accompanies your CV, giving a bit more depth to your experience and skills. It should be tailored to the role you’re applying for, providing an opportunity to highlight anything that makes you perfect for the job.
How important is a cover letter?
Here are a few reasons why cover letters remain important:
Adds a personal touch — Your CV provides a snapshot of your qualifications and experiences. However, a cover letter adds depth. It allows you to introduce yourself more personally, conveying your enthusiasm and commitment to the role.
You can contextualise your skills — While a CV lists skills, the cover letter offers a platform to elaborate on how you've applied them in real-world situations, making your experiences relatable to the potential employer.
Allows you to address specifics — Job postings often have unique requirements or points of emphasis. A cover letter lets you directly address these points, showcasing how you meet or exceed these criteria.
You can clarify transitions — If there are gaps in your employment history or a switch in industries, the cover letter is your chance to explain these transitions and tell the story behind them.
You can show your culture fit — Companies aren't just hiring based on skills; they're looking for cultural fits. A cover letter can provide a glimpse into your personality and values, ensuring a potential fit with the company's culture.
How many words should a cover letter be?
While there's no strict word count for your cover letter, unless specified in the job description, aim for between 250 to 400 words and no longer than one page of A4. It should be detailed enough to show your skills and experience relevant to the position, but concise enough to keep the hiring manager's attention.
How to write a cover letter
Start with your contact information
When drafting a cover letter on a job site, there's no need to repeat your address or contact details if you've already provided them elsewhere in the application.
However, if you're sending the letter as a separate attachment, start with your contact info at the top. This helps potential employers get in touch easily. Be sure to list your name, address, phone number, and professional email address.
Address the letter
Do your best to identify the hiring manager's name through some research on the company website or LinkedIn. Using a specific name can make your letter feel more personal and attentive.
If you can't find the name of the hiring manager, "Hello" or "Dear Hiring Manager" are safe and neutral ways to begin. A little research into the company's culture can help you strike the right balance between formality and casualness in your tone.
Give your introduction
The introduction to your cover letter should be no longer than three to four sentences. Here, you may want to include the following:
The purpose of your letter and the role you're applying for
Where you found the job advertisement and why it caught your attention
A brief sentence on why you're suitable for the role
"I was excited to discover the Social Media Manager position at [Company Name] listed on LinkedIn. Your team's innovative online campaigns, particularly those leveraging interactive content, truly stood out to me. With my three years of experience in driving online campaigns and my passion for creative content strategy, I am confident in my ability to contribute effectively to your team."
Detail relevant skills and experience in the main body
The main body of your cover letter is usually two paragraphs: your skills and experience — specifically those mentioned in the position advertisement — and your achievements and accomplishments.
It may look something like this:
"During my four years as a Social Media Executive at [Company Name], I honed my skills in managing and strategising for various social media platforms, including Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest. From designing captivating content and determining the best times to post to analysing the data to understand our audience better, I was always on the lookout to optimise our brand presence.
Through consistent strategy adjustments and content improvements, I was able to boost our engagement rates by 25%. Through collaborative efforts with the Content department, especially by integrating SEO practices, I ensured that our content was not only engaging but also reached a wider audience. Staying updated with current trends and adapting our strategies accordingly also saw a significant 15% growth in our follower count."
A useful tip is to scan the job description for any keywords and align your experience with them. This way, you make it clear that you're not only a fit for the role but also that you've paid close attention to what they're looking for.
For example, if you're looking for a position as a Social Media Manager, the job description might mention the following:
Proven experience in content creation
Familiarity with scheduling tools like Buffer or Hootsuite
Given these keywords, your cover letter could include:
"In my previous role as a Social Media Executive at [Company Name], I regularly took the lead in content creation, ensuring that all materials reflected the brand's voice. I've also become proficient in using scheduling tools like Buffer, which has been instrumental in maintaining a consistent posting schedule."
Wrap up by showing genuine excitement for the role and expressing gratitude for the opportunity to apply. Just ensure you're not reiterating points from the main body of your letter.
And don't forget to let them know that you're looking forward to moving ahead with the application process, as this enthusiasm can leave a positive impression.
Here's an example of how to end your cover letter:
"Thank you for considering my application. I am eager to continue the conversation and explore how my expertise aligns with your goals. I'm looking forward to the possibility of contributing to [Company Name]'s social media journey and achieving remarkable results together. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me."
When signing off your cover letter, make sure you keep it professional. "Yours faithfully" is best when you don't know the name of the hiring manager, and "Yours sincerely" if you do. You can also use "Thank you for your consideration" or "Best regards".
Steer clear of more casual expressions such as "cheers" or "thanks". While friendly in some contexts, they may come across as overly casual and might not convey the level of professionalism expected in a cover letter.
Tips for writing a cover letter
Research the company
While it might be tempting to use a generic letter, personalising for each role makes a difference in showing your genuine interest in the role. And researching the company before creating your first draft really helps with this.
Pay attention to details like:
Company values — Understand the core principles that the company upholds. Align your strengths and aspirations with these values to showcase your potential fit.
Recent achievements — Underline recent milestones or projects the company has undertaken. Referencing these in your cover letter shows you've done your homework and are genuinely excited to contribute.
Unique company aspects — If the company has a distinctive culture, initiatives, or awards, it might be worth mentioning them in the section where you're discussing your interest in the company. This shows your attention to detail and your appreciation for what sets the company apart.
Don’t just copy your CV
Avoid repeating information already present in your CV and instead focus on providing insights that make you a standout candidate for the role. It's useful to consider your cover letter an opportunity to tell a story that adds context to your skills and showcases your personality.
Keep it concise
A well-crafted cover letter should be concise and to the point. Avoid lengthy paragraphs or getting bogged down in unnecessary details. Instead, aim to capture the reader's attention with impactful language that makes it easy for the reader to grasp your strengths quickly.
Typos and grammatical errors can leave a negative impression. That's why taking the time to review your letter for any mistakes is so important. It's also a good idea to ask a friend to give it a final look over before submitting it.
How can I explain the gaps in my CV?
Your cover letter is a perfect opportunity to briefly explain any gaps in your CV, whether that's due to personal commitments, career transitions, or other reasons. Be honest and don't shy away from addressing this topic; instead, use it as an opportunity to showcase any skills you've gained during these periods.
Here's an example of how to explain this in your cover letter:
"I took one year out of work to travel and immerse myself in a new culture. This incredible opportunity allowed me to develop my adaptability, communication skills, and resilience in unfamiliar environments and I'm now ready to focus on my career."
When should I follow up on a job application?
If you haven't received a response in a week or two, sending a polite follow-up email can reiterate your interest and check for any further information they might need.
Your follow-up email may look like this:
Subject line: Follow-up for the [Position Title] job position.
Dear Hiring Manager,
My name is [Full Name], and I wanted to follow up regarding my application for the [Position Title] at [Company Name], which I submitted a couple of weeks ago. I just wanted to confirm you have my application and if you have any questions.
Thank you once again for considering my application. Please feel free to contact me at [your phone number] or [your email address] if you need any further information.
Learn more about Forward Role
Your cover letter is more than just an introduction; it's your chance to stand out from the crowd. Invest time in it, and you'll be well on your way to making a great impression.
At Forward Role, we have the expertise to match top-quality candidates with market-leading digital and tech businesses throughout the UK. Check out our job seeker FAQ page to find out more or get in touch with our experts. Or, for more tips for succeeding in your career, read our blog.