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How to write a successful cover letter


>Give your cover letter structure

Divide your letter into 4 clearly-identifiable parts:

  • The introduction, which grabs the recruiter's attention. "A very effective trick is to open your letter with a rhetorical question or statistic," says Daniel. For example: "Do you know a textile company with an average profit margin of 42%?"
  • The body, which describes your achievements and tells the recruiter what he/she wants to know about what you do. 
  • The interview request, which should be clear and direct.
  • The conclusion, with a standard, polite closing line ('Yours sincerely' if you started with 'Dear Mr Bloggs' and 'Yours faithfully' if you started with 'Dear Sir/Madam').

> Keep it short and sweet

One page is enough if you keep your style direct. "Avoid flowery language, complex, long-winded structures and grandiose statements," says Daniel.

And don't forget that a string of sentences starting with 'I...' may put some recruiters off. Vary active constructions ('I intervened and won the case') with passive constructions ('The case was won thanks to my intervention').

> Type it

"Typed letters are standard. They also allow you to highlight key words in italics or bold type," says our expert. Use black text and personalised headers for a professional touch.

> Always send your cover letter as an attachment

If you send your application by email, don't put your cover letter in the body of the email. If you send it as an attachment, the presentation will look far better. "If the HR department or recruiter prints out your application, a letter will look much better than a printed email," says Daniel.  

Tip: Get proactive. Chase your applications up rather than waiting for recruiters to get back to you. If you haven't heard anything in 3 weeks, phone the company/recruiter's secretary/the recruiter to check they received your application. 

"Pretend that you've got a decision to make on a job offer, so that you don't sound either desperate or neurotic," suggests Daniel. While you're on the phone, push to see if you're going to get an interview!

It's good to show the employer you're keen, but if you come across as desperate this tactic is unlikely to succeed.

send your letter in .doc format. "The recruiter may be able to check the changes you've made to your letter if you send it in .doc," says Daniel. The page set-up of Word documents can also vary when you open documents, so play it safe and send them as PDFs! 

For more tips, see our guide to writing a cover letter.


Sarah Horrocks
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