A cover letter is often the first point of contact between you and an employer.
It should read as a summary of the reasons why the employer should seriously consider you for the job.
There are two main types of cover letter; targeted cover letters and speculative cover letters.
Speculative cover letters are used to apply for jobs which have not been advertised. As well as sending speculative cover letters to employers directly, you can also send them to recruitment agencies for example. The main aim of a speculative cover letter is to express your interest in working for particular firm (or sector if you are writing to a recruitment agency), but without necessarily referring to a specific job.
Targeted cover letters should be employed if there is a particular vacancy and you know the job you are applying for. Your cover letter therefore needs to be more targeted too, and specifically address the job in question. With targeted cover letters you should address the company contact by name on the letter.
Here are some pointers for writing a cover letter:
- Be clear, concise – not long winded. A cover letter should not be longer than one side of A4.
- Use quality paper (bonded A4) and adopt a similar layout to that used for your C.V.
- Address the letter to a named individual in the company rather than “Dear sir or madam”.
- If you don’t have a contact name then contact the organisation to find out who is in charge of recruitment.
- The letter should consist of just three or four paragraphs at most; to begin with state clearly what the vacancy is and how you heard of it, or if a speculative approach, indicate what sort of work you are interested in.
- Explain why you are interested in the job, highlighting you strengths, your understanding of the work, how well suited you are to it.
- Think from the employer’s perspective rather than your own. Tell them what you can contribute to the organisation rather than how it can benefit you.
- Focus the letter on the potential employer’s needs.
- Highlight the ways in which you are suitable for this position.
- Aim to show that your key strengths reflect the requirements of the employer and position.
- Demonstrate your knowledge of the company – look them up on the internet, visit their own website, talk to people who know the company. This will show that you have done your research and used your initiative.
- Match the needs of the job with your achievements. Change your cover letter to suit each particular job to which you apply.
- Specify your availability for interview.
- Use clear and official – but not stilted – language; at the same time you should avoid expressing yourself in a way that is overly familiar.
- Check for spelling, grammar and punctuation. Keep copies of all letters you send out. It may be some time before the company replies by which time you will have forgotten what you wrote in the letter.
- Sign the letter personally.
While it is possible to work off sample cover letters available online, working off a template often lacks the personal touch and is to be avoided. By following a general template, you are less likely to tailor the letter to the specific organisation and job you are applying.
STARTING A LETTER
Opening sentences for introductory paragraph:
- In response to the advertisement in the Enniscorthy Echo, 12th of June 2014, I would like to apply for the position of receptionist.
- I am writing in answer to your advertisement in today’s Irish Independent requesting applications for the position of receptionist.
- I am writing in response to your advert in yesterday’s Evening Herald, for the position of a receptionist.
- Please could you send me an application form and further details of the vacancy for receptionist, as advertised in Waterford Today of the 12th of January 2014.
- I would like to apply for the position of receptionist, as advertised in the Gorey Guardian on the 10th August 2014.
- I am writing to apply for the above post as advertised on Beat FM on 10th May 2014. You may wish to take a look at some sample cover letters for ideas.
FINISHING A LETTER
Closing sentences for concluding paragraph:
- I would be pleased to meet you to discuss how I could contribute to your organisation
- I look forward to hearing from you in the near future and would be available to attend an interview at your convenience
- I live locally and would welcome the opportunity to discuss my application with you at your convenience, I look forward to hearing from you
- I will be available for an interview at your convenience and would welcome the opportunity to discuss both the position and my experience in greater detail
- This letter and my CV provide the basis of my career achievements, and I would be pleased to discuss them further with you. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future
- You can reach me by a phone call to my mobile or a letter to the above address. My CV is attached. I look forward to hearing from you
I know that I could make a significant contribution to your Company at this time and would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you further. I will call to your office in the next few days to arrange an appointment
Sample 1 : Healthcare
Mr. Mark Murphy,
12 North Street,
Dear Mr. Murphy,
I would like to be considered for the Live-In Carer position offered by you at your home as advertised through the [Website name].
Along with a FETAC Level 5 Healthcare Certificate and three years of hands on experience as a live-in caregiver, I have the potential to become a vital support to your family.
My high level of concentration and excellent aide skills enable me to help the elderly maintain mobility through light workout and walking; cognitive functioning through various means, including conversation, memory drills and books.
As per your requirements I am highly competent in grocery shopping for the household; planning and arranging nutritious meals for the older person; helping with personal care as desirable, for instance bathing, grooming, feeding, toileting and dressing.
My CV contains all the necessary information and skills which are prerequisites for Live-In Carer job at your home. Enclosed is my CV for your review.
I am enthusiastic about the Live-In Carer position for your family and look forward to meeting to discuss more about this position and relate my skills with your job requirements.
You may contact me on (086) 111-1111 or [Email Address Here].
Thank you for your time and consideration.
(Signature) Enna David
Sample 2 : Retail
Mr Philip Smith
Fashion Retail Store
Made Up Road
4th January 20XX
Dear Mr Smith
This letter is in response to your vacancy for a Sales Assistant as advertised on the Dayjob.com website.
The position matches my career interests and is strongly compatible with my skills and also my knowledge of working in a demanding retail environment.
As you can see from my enclosed CV I have extensive and relevant sales experience in client interaction, up selling, assisting customers with product selection and excellent communicating and negotiating skills.
With my previous employer my accomplishments include introducing new product lines, increasing sales by over 27% and training new staff in customer service techniques.
I also have a number of relevant Retail & Visual Merchandising qualifications.
I hope therefore that on consideration of my CV, you will be persuaded of my potential to perform well and to make a real contribution to your business.
I am available for interview at any time and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.
444 Anywhere Road
Mobile: 087 222 3333