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How to write a cover letter

The cover letter is your first—and sometimes only—opportunity to attract an employer's attention and let them know why your CV is worth reading. The point of the cover letter is not to detail everything that is in your CV, but rather to entice the employer into wanting to learn more about you. You should always make sure your cover letter is customised to each employer you apply to.

Try to find out the name of the appropriate contact person, or call the HR department so you can personalise your letter. If this information is unavailable you can write ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. If you are sending a letter (as opposed to an e-mail), you should include the company address at the top of the page, then skip a few lines and insert the date.

First research the employer: their history, values, mission, structure, services, activities, news etc.  You can find this information by looking on the company’s website and also searching them on Google. If there is a specific job description make sure you analyse the role very carefully. Check for the required skills and experience the employer is looking for so you can relate them to your own background in the cover letter.

In the first paragraph, tell the employer why you are writing to them in two or three sentences. If you have been referred by someone, mention that person by name; if you are applying for a specific position, mention why it attracted you and why you believe you are a suitable fit for this job. If you are writing a letter of interest to ask about available positions, specify why you are interested in working for this particular employer.

In the following one or two paragraphs, outline your qualifications and professional experience, making sure to match them to the requirements of the position (without lying). Also, try to use relevant details of the employer’s background and history to show you have done your research. Always use the first-person and use strong action verbs--don't make it sound as though things happened to you, take ownership. For example, instead of saying a generic “The sales team's goals were met by me”, say: “I successfully redeveloped the sales team strategy and I exceeded our target goals by 28 percent”.

In the final paragraph, include a positive statement that will encourage the employer to take action and ask them to refer to the enclosed (or attached) CV. Make sure you provide your contact information (phone number, e-mail address) and welcome the employer to get in touch. You should also always thank the employer for their time and consideration at the end.

Conclude your letter with "Yours sincerely," or "Regards," and if you are sending a letter, leave a few lines to sign your name in blue ink.

Before sending your letter, make sure you proofread and check spelling, grammar, and formatting. Make sure you do not use colloquial language and break down any contractions such as “I’ve” to "I have".

Good Luck!!