It’s all very well having a great CV but it won’t count for much if your cover letter isn’t equally dazzling. The purpose of a great covering letter should be to demonstrate your understanding of the role and company and show how your skills and abilities match the job perfectly.

Confused? Don’t be. We share a few of our simple rules and don’t forget to check out our cover letter templates for a job application that employers will find hard to say no to…

5 golden cover letter rules

There are five golden rules to writing an attention-grabbing cover letter:

  • Write individual cover letters for every job you apply for. Even if the basics are the same you need to tailor it to each role to succeed.
  • Remind the recruiter what they’re looking for
  • Tell them you are what they’re looking for (and explain how you fit the job description)
  • Demonstrate why you are the best choice with examples
  • Keep it simple

Employers will decide if you’re suitable or not in a matter of seconds. They will use your cover letter to make sure you tick-off the job description must-haves and only move onto your CV for more details if you do.

Interpret the job ad

Before you even begin to think about your cover letter, you first need to study and understand the job ad you’re interested in. It may help to print a copy off and highlight all the most important points.

Things to look out for:
What does the job involve? Could you actually DO the job? If so, how can you prove this based on your past experience and qualifications?

NOTE: you don’t always need direct experience… If this is your first job or you’re changing careers then use experience from your life, school or different roles to demonstrate transferable skills.

Next think about what they want from a candidate. Do you fit their requirements? In the old days you could apply for jobs if you didn’t have exactly the right set of skills but now there’s so much competition for jobs that if the skills requirements are beyond you then you’ll struggle to get an interview. Think hard before spending a lot of time on putting together a job application for a long shot.

Now write a quick list of examples showing how you fit each of their requirements… This is what you’ll base your cover letter on.

Cover letter layout

Cover letters should follow a simple layout and be structured like a professional letter, although the age of the email has softened some of the hard-and-fast rules of letter writing (including your address and their address at the top, for example, isn’t necessary).

The key points to remember, are:

  • Try and find out a contact name so you can personalise your letter or email.
  • Use the first paragraph to briefly explain why you’re writing to them.
  • Over the next paragraph or two outline your qualifications and match them to the job spec.
  • Use bullet points to get maximum impact with as few words as possible.
  • Be specific – if you can include a figure or two, so much the better.
  • Be enthusiastic and show them you’ve done your research on the company.
  • In the final paragraph, point the addressee to the CV you have attached or enclosed for further details, and thank that person for his time and consideration.
  • It’s a good idea to sign off with a positive statement to prompt the recruiter to take action. Be assertive and never apologetic.

Keeping your cover letter short (about 250-300 words long), specific and upbeat will increase your chances of success.