Getting that cover letter just right

A cover letter is your first point of contact with a potential employer, so make a good first impression.

Thu, June 20th, 13:47


A cover letter is traditionally emailed in tandem with your CV and serves as an introduction to who you are and what you’re all about as a candidate. Its purpose is to briefly outline your experience and explain why you are suitable for the position you are applying for. Consequently, a strong cover letter is a vital part of your jobseeking strategy. All too often the importance of a cover letter can be overlooked because candidates are more likely to focus on their CV. While the CV may be the more important document of the two, without a strong opening cover letter your CV may not even be read.

A cover letter differs from a CV because it is designed to make a personal connection with the individual it is being sent to. It should provide an enticing reason for the recipient to want to read your CV. Additionally, the cover letter lets you tailor your job application to the company and position you are interested in. Here is a list of 5 important tips to help you write a strong cover letter.

1. Don’t rehash your CV: There is a clear distinction between a cover letter and a CV, the former should include a personal introduction and brief summary of your experience; the latter includes the intricate details. Avoid rewriting your work experience all over again; instead try to highlight the specific areas that are relevant to the employer. For example, you may include a statement such as the following: “As you read my CV, I would like to draw your attention to the two years I worked as Store Manager of the XYZ Company. This role required me to employ many of the skills needed for this position”.

2.  Make a personal connection: In the initial stages of your application, take some time to conduct research into the company and determine exactly who you will be applying to. This demonstrates initiative and resourcefulness. An example of the kinds of opening statements you should make in your cover letter would be: “Dear Mary, further to our discussion on Monday…”, or “Dear Michael at the recommendation of your colleague Anne, I am writing to you to apply for the position of….”

3.  Explain why you’re the right fit: This is your chance to sell yourself. Describe the key attributes that will set you apart from other candidates. Examples of such personal statements might look something like this: “I can not only offer the skills and experience you require, but I can also provide you with many additional qualities such as desire, determination and resourcefulness. I am results driven and strive to exceed the targets and goals set by the business.”

4.  Avoid spelling mistakes and keep it concise: Simple spelling errors can prove all too costly for an otherwise perfectly qualified candidate. Ensure that you have a friend or colleague proof read your CV and cover letter before you send them. The maximum length of your cover letter should be half an A4 page.

5.  Show your appreciation: In the conclusion of your cover letter, outline your gratitude to the employer for taking the time to consider your application.

Finally, before you send your cover letter email, make sure you don’t forget to attach your CV. You’d be surprised how many applicants make this embarrassing mistake!

Peter Cosgrove

The Irish Times