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Writing a cover letter

Sarah Horrocks
by Sarah Horrocks Published on 13 June 2008

Your cover letter introduces you to recruiters and helps them decide whether or not they're interested, so it needs to be perfect. Here’s some advice on writing a convincing cover letter.

The plan
A conventional cover letter should be written in three parts.
- Introduction: ‘I am a graduate of The London School of Economics and I wish to apply for the above referenced post advertised on your website,’ for example.
- Argument: Convince the recruiter you’re the right person for the job. Refer to your CV and to the job description.
- Conclusion: Indicate you're keen to meet the recruiter for an interview.

Key elements
Your cover letter should reflect your motivation. Unlike your CV, it’s not a simple list of different experiences. When reading the argument, the recruiter must understand what attracts an applicant to the post, their qualities, skills and how they work.
A Human Resources manager needs to read things that match the company thinking and spirit. With the internet, you have all the tools you need at your disposal to find out about the company and put forward qualities that you have that match their philosophy.

Tone
The tone will depend on the sector of the job you're applying for. Avoid being too fanciful if you want to work in business and finance, but if you work in communication, media and other creative jobs you can be a little more ‘pushy’ and creative. You need to be original without being pretentious. Stay true to yourself and keep it simple.

Traps to avoid
- Avoid copying and pasting, especially when you're sending out mass CVs and letters. There’s nothing worse than a letter with wrong names or details on.
- Long letters. You’re not writing a novel! Save some things for the interview.
- Pay attention to the font you use (not too small but not too big) and make sure your paper is free from stains and folds!

Things that make all the difference
- Scan your signature and insert it onto a Word document to send by email.
- Keep it short. Recruiters prefer concise, punchy letters of no more than 12 to 15 lines, but in which every word counts.

by Sarah Horrocks

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