How To Write The Perfect Cover Letter For Your CV

A cover letter (or motivation letter) is a personalised one-page letter submitted along with a CV when applying for jobs. The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce a job applicant as the perfect candidate for a role in hopes of strengthening a CV and winning an interview.

CVs are a dime a dozen these days, with more people competing for the same positions than ever before.

What often sets you apart from your counterparts is your cover letter.
Your cover letter is your opportunity to speak directly to your potential employer - something your CV can’t do on its own.

In this article, you’ll discover how to write a cover letter for your CV.

Don’t enjoy writing and need some help? Click here to get your own expertly crafted cover letter.

Now, let’s get into it.

How To Write A Cover Letter For Your CV

Your cover letter should be impressive and intriguing enough to get recruiters or potential employers to read the rest of your CV.

Here’s what we’ll be covering in this article:

  1. What a cover letter is and why it’s important
  2. How to research a cover letter
  3. How to format a cover letter
  4. How to address a cover letter
  5. How to start a cover letter
  6. What to write in a cover letter
  7. How to end a cover letter

Each section (intro, body, and conclusion) plays an important part of an effective cover letter.

And by the end of this article, you’ll know exactly how to write one for your CV.

What Is A Cover Letter And Why It’s Important

A cover letter (or motivation letter) is a personalised one-page letter submitted along with a CV when applying for jobs. The purpose of a cover letter is to introduce a job applicant as the perfect candidate for a role in hopes of strengthening a CV and winning an interview.

Remember, it’s important to customize your cover letter for every position you apply for to have the biggest  impact.

Whether you change the whole letter each time or only sections of it - it’s important for the employer to know you made the effort of writing directly to them.

If you don’t, you’ll probably be overlooked in favour of applicants who went the extra mile.

How To Research Your Cover Letter

Doing at least some research about your potential employer before writing your cover letter will make a world of difference.

Information you should be looking for includes:

  1. Required skills and experience - Understand how your set of skills and past experience map to the role and responsibilities of the new position. Bonus points if you can identify additional skills or experience not mentioned in the job listing that might benefit the company.
  2. Who’ll be receiving your cover letter - This might be the owner of the business if it’s a smaller company, or someone like a hiring manager if it’s a larger corporation.
  3. Company culture - Understanding the company culture will help you determine the best tone for your letter. Some companies are more formal and require the same approach, while others are more casual and prefer someone who fits their more relaxed culture.
  4. Current market and recent news - Make a point of knowing who their competitors are, their current market position, and the current state of the market overall.
  5. Company’s future goals - Have a good understanding of the company’s goals for the near future and how you fit into that picture.

Now that you’ve done your research, use it to tailor your cover letter to the job role, the company, and the person receiving your completed job application.

How To Format Your Cover Letter

A cover letter should be formatted using separate paragraphs for the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Avoid writing large blocks of text that are difficult to read, while keeping sentences long enough to make sense and short enough to avoid rambling on and losing your reader.

The best cover letters use the following simple structure:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion

Using this 3-stage format makes writing your cover letter much simpler and ensures you don’t miss any important details when introducing yourself as the perfect candidate for the position.

Remember to include your identifying information in the header area of your letter. 

Information to include in your header:

  1. Full name
  2. Current job title (or “Graduating Student” if you don’t have a job)
  3. Contact details (email address, phone number, etc)
  4. Current date
  5. Personal website (if you have one)
  6. Social media profiles (optional)

Now you know what you should include in your header, let’s look at the rest of your cover letter.

How Long Your Cover Letter Should Be

A cover letter should consist of 1-page with 3 - 6 paragraphs, or between 300 - 400 words maximum. Long enough to communicate a message of intent and motivate an employer to read a CV and award an interview, and short enough to be engaging to avoid boring the reader.

Remember, a cover letter is the introduction to your CV, and not the CV itself.

So keep it short and sweet, with as little unnecessary detail as possible.

How To Address Your Cover Letter

A cover letter should be addressed to the hiring manager or Head of HR for the company advertising the position. For companies with formal cultures, it’s best to address a letter using the recruiter’s preferred title and last name. For less formal companies, using the person’s first name is fine.

It’s important to match the company's culture when you reach out to them, or they might feel you’re not quite right for the role 

That’s why the research phase of writing your cover letter is so important.

Examples of a formally addressed letter:

  • Smith
  • Rogers
  • Phillips

Examples of a less formally addressed letter:

  • Hi James
  • Dear Sarah
  • Hello Jaime

Make sure you use the right approach when addressing your cover letter.

Should A Cover Letter Be Addressed To A Specific Person?

Yes. It’s always best to address a cover letter to a specific person when applying for a position. Avoid using generic greetings like “To whom it may concern”, which shows a lack of research and initiative. Addressing a cover letter to the right person significantly increases the odds of success.

Look at company websites and social media platforms like LinkedIn to identify the right person to address your letter to, if the job application doesn’t provide this information.

Pro tip: Reaching out to hiring managers via email or LinkedIn (outside of the application process) to mention your intention of applying and thanking them for the opportunity will go a long way.

How Do You Address A Cover Letter To An Unknown Recipient?

If it’s difficult to find the name of the person hiring, then using a more generic greeting like “Dear Sir” for addressing a cover letter to an unknown recipient is acceptable. However, more creative greetings like “To my future boss” for more informal company cultures will get more attention.

If you can’t find the name of the person hiring online, consider calling the company or contacting someone else from the company and asking them who’s best to contact.

It’s always going to be better addressing your cover letter of motivation to the right person.

How To Start Your Cover Letter

Starting your cover letter the right way is important.

Get it wrong and you’ll lose your readers attention and they’ll move onto the next applicant.

Your cover letter should grab your recruiter’s attention by starting with an intriguing introduction:

1. Introduce The Candidate

Introduce yourself to the employer with straightforward language.

Avoid filling your introduction with self-praise, you’ll get an opportunity to show off your accomplishments in the body of your letter.

Simply mention who you are and your current professional title, like “Graphic Designer” or “Sales Representative”.

2. Express Interest In The Vacancy

Tell them which position you’re applying for, and a brief sentence mentioning why you’re a good fit.

Remember, don’t get too descriptive - that’s what your CV is for.

Mentioning the amount of time you’ve been in the industry or a large project you worked on would be enough to keep your recruiter or potential employer reading.

3. Show Enthusiasm For The Company

This is where the research phase comes into play.

It’s important to show your enthusiasm for the company by mentioning an interesting project they’re busy with, up-and-coming events, new company changes, or anything else that shows you’ve done your homework.

Be sure to mention why this particular fact interested you.

4. Refer To Mutual Connections

If you’re applying to a position recommended by a mutual contact, it would be good to include that.

It helps build your credibility as an applicant when the person reading your cover letter recognises someone you’ve mentioned.

5. Express Passion For The Job

Employers want people who are passionate about their work.

So be sure to convey your passion for the work in your introduction, and your excitement to further your career with them.

What To Write In Your Cover Letter

The body of your cover letter is where you’ll go into a little more detail about your history, including your previous accomplishments.

Things to include in the body of a cover letter:

  1. Previous projects you’ve completed
  2. Impressive statistics you’ve achieved
  3. Companies you’ve worked with in the past
  4. Well-known people you’ve worked with before
  5. How many years of experience you have
  6. Any major contribution you’ve made to the industry

As I mentioned, the body of your letter is your opportunity to show off.

Use short paragraphs and bullet points to highlight your achievements to set them apart from the rest of your body.

Keep it short, but impactful enough to make an impression.

How To End Your Cover Letter

End your cover letter with a compelling conclusion so your potential employer remembers you.

Your conclusion should do two things:

  1. Thank the recruiter or hiring manager for their time and consideration
  2. Include a call-to-action to get the reader to take the next step

A call-to-action is something specific you ask your reader to do after reading your cover letter.

This might be to read your CV, to favorably consider your job application, or take the initiative and ask them for a convenient time to meet with you for the interview.

Now you know exactly how to write a cover letter for your CV.

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