How to write an excellent cover letter for your job application.

How to write an excellent covering letter for job applications.

What is a job application covering letter?

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of writing a cover letter for your job applications (to ultimately get an interview), let me give you a bit of background about what a cover letter actually is.

A cover letter (or sometimes referred to as a job application letter) is an essential part of almost every vacancy application. Not only does it sell your skills and abilities to recruiters or hiring managers, but it also supports your CV or résumé to highlight why you are the perfect candidate! Also, a cover letter doesn’t have to be a ‘letter’, it can be a letter via email.

Often, a well written covering letter or letter of application showcases your skills and experience for a vacancy prior to the Hiring Manager reading your CV or résumé. In turn, this will enable them to identify specific skill sets you have highlighted, which they will look out for, and put into context when reading your CV.

Because of this, a stellar cover letter that sells your skills and background is crucial to your success in the job search process.

What to think about when writing a vacancy application letter?

A cover letter should be clear and easy to read.  It should show that you know exactly what skills and experience the employer is looking for, to successfully fill their vacancy.

First, you should gather the information, information about the company you’re applying to and the role they are looking to recruit for.

Look at the job description and how your skills and experience compare to the vacancy they are looking to fill. I have spoken to many candidates about writing a covering letter, and the most daunting part of the process, is thinking about the process itself!

When pulling together your information, think of the job description as the ‘ingredients’ and your CV or résumé as the ‘menu’!  The two are so closely linked and you can’t have one without the other!

The job description is sharing what you need to highlight and showcase in your covering letter, your skills and experience as it were.

How do I construct a cover letter?

First off, do your research and make notes! Ask yourself the first really important questions:

  • Why am I interested in working for the company?
  • What interests me about this job vacancy?
  • What skills or professional experience can I showcase from my career or current role?
  • Why am I the most suited candidate for the job?
  • What transferable skills can I also offer?

Use a HIGHLIGHT and MARK method for your perfect cover letter.

So, going back to the recipe and menu!

The job description is telling you what skills and experience the company is looking for to successfully fill their job vacancy, and your CV or résumé is showcasing your skills and previous experience… the two have to match, right?

Now, take a highlighter and mark the job description or advertisement with the skills and experience you have. Maybe use one colour for highlighting direct skills / experience, and a second colour to identify the skills / experience that you have, albeit in a different but similar context (see below!).

Don’t highlight any negatives but write about similarities. For example:

The job description is asking for ‘experience of using Google Sheets spreadsheets’, which you might not necessarily have.

Instead of writing that you don’t have this experience or just ignoring it, share the experience you do have.  If you have experience of using MS Excel for example, let the Hiring Manager know that you have experience of ‘working with spreadsheets, using MS Excel’.

You might also like to share the level of your experience? This is the area that you may have highlighted in the second colour (see above!)

Cover-letter formats of an effective job application letter.

Your job application letter should have 4 main parts:

  • The greeting
  • Cover letter introduction
  • Main body
  • Close

The Greeting — Be sure to make a good first impression.

We all know that first impressions count, this is especially true in writing a covering letter for a job application… but how do you make a good one?

If you know the Hiring Manager’s name from the job advertisement or job description, the chances are that they are open to you using that information as a greeting.

It’s a bit like the rule of replying to an email by using the salutation you’ve been presented with.

For example, if I receive an email from someone I’ve not met before, with a greeting of ‘Hello JM’, I respond with the same greeting, ‘Hello {FIRST NAME}’.

What to do if you don’t know the Hiring Manager’s name?

It’s best to stay away from the more generic ‘Dear Hiring Manager’ if you can, and resort to ‘Dear Sir / Madam’ if you have no other option.

There’s been a significant shift to using ‘Hello {NAME}’ in a greeting recently, but it would be best to check on the company culture to see if a more casual approach is acceptable.

You might want to research the company to determine who to address your covering letter to. Greeting a specific person will show that you’ve done your research, it makes the covering letter more personable and shows that you have written the covering letter specifically for that vacancy.

If you’re not having much luck in finding this information from the job advertisement, try conducting a quick search on search engines like Google, or a business networking site, like LinkedIn.

You might also want to call the company and ask for the person’s name to address the covering letter to… again this can show that you are working on your initiative and it could also open a positive dialogue with the recruiting company.

If you are applying through a recruitment agency, speak to your consultant first for guidance, as it may be that a covering letter would be best addressed to them.

Your cover letter introduction.

This is the area that you let the Hiring Manager know why you are writing your covering application letter.

This doesn’t have to be a large paragraph, and it’s best to be direct and to the point. It should describe why you are getting in touch, for example:

I am writing to apply for the {POSITION, ROLE, VACANCY} of {JOB TITLE} which I have seen advertised on {WHERE YOU SAW THE JOB ADVERT). Please find attached my CV, together with a covering letter.

The main body for an effective cover letter.

We won’t go too heavily into this as you’ve already done all the hard work by Highlighting and Marking your experience against the job advert or description, now you need to write about it!

Remember recipe / menu and cover your relevant skills.

You’ve got this! Let’s get this interview!

Cover letter closing.

Now we’ve created some great content for your job application letter, we need to ‘sign off’ or ‘close’ on a positive note!

The ‘close’ is a great place to reiterate your interest in the job vacancy and company.

Remember to say, ‘thank you’ and try to include something specific to the job or company, for example:

I am really interested in the prospect of working for {COMPANY} and I would welcome the opportunity of meeting with you to discuss my skills and experience for your {JOB TITLE} role.

Remember to include your contact details!

Finally, double check that your telephone number and email address are both present and correct on the job application letter or covering letter (if it is a letter you have written) or on your CV.

You’d be amazed at how many CV’s don’t include the correct information!

A last note from JM&Co.

I hope that this article has helped you to formulate your own ‘Cover Letter Template’ and will offer you support when writing your job application letter or cover letters.

Watch this space for some future cover letter examples, sample cover letters and further insights into job application letters.

Very best wishes in showing potential employers you relevant experience and I hope that you are successful in winning the job interview!

Additional tip alert!

Also consider including your professional profile URL (LinkedIn for example) on your CV.

That way you can see if any Hiring Managers have looked at your profile!

In today’s world of ‘apply, send and wait’, it’s great to keep a measure on the activity behind the scenes!

Additional Content

How to get the best out of your interviews

How to make the best first impression

How to write a killer email!

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JM&Co. Recruitment Ltd is a recruitment agency located in Brackley, South Northamptonshire.  We are an employment business who provide work finding services for candidates seeking new job roles in the Brackley, Bicester, Banbury, Buckingham, Towcester and Silverstone areas.