Structure and format of a cover letter
In 2022, you may be asked to send a physical cover letter in the post. However, it’s much more likely that your cover letter will be an email or one element of an online application form. The structure of your cover letter will vary depending on the format – physical letter, email, or online field – but generally it should include:
- job reference and title
- how you found out about the vacancy
- your relevant work experience and skills
- one or two relevant achievements
- why you’re an ideal candidate
- your enthusiasm to work in the role and for the employer
Keep an eye out for any cover letter requirements stated in the job advert and make sure you stick to them, for instance, job reference, who to address the cover letter to, or word count.
Remember to keep your cover letter concise. Ideally, it should be no longer than one page.
The importance of research
Just as you would adapt your CV to each job you apply for, including relevant experience, skills, and keywords, so too should you write each cover letter to fit the specific job application you are making. This is where research plays a key role.
Skills, experience, and qualifications
What skills, experience, and qualifications are stated as requirements for the role? It’s not necessary to mention every one of these in your cover letter because that is where your CV will play its part. However, familiarising yourself with the type of candidate the employer is looking for means that you can word your cover letter to demonstrate that you are a good fit for the role.
Use keywords and phrases that are mentioned in the job advert and description. Use language that is relevant to the role and the industry. Focus your cover letter on your suitability for that specific job.
Company culture can be a difficult concept to define, however at its core is the experience of employees who work for that organisation.
For instance, is there a specific career hierarchy that means you must hold this position within the company before you can advance to the next or is employee mobility more fluid with the chance to move sideways or jump career path?
What company values does the employer expect their workforce to share, such as inclusivity or environmental sustainability?
Much of this can be sourced from the company website and their social media channels, but there may also be information included in the application pack. How can you show that you are a good fit for the company culture in your cover letter?
For more information, you might like to read Workplace culture revealed.
Who to address the cover letter to
Your job application can fail from the outset if you don’t address your cover letter to the right person or department. Even if a wrongly addressed cover letter makes its way to the right person, it can give the impression of a candidate who is careless, has no eye for detail, and has no enthusiasm for the job.
Make sure that you use the correct mailing or email address.
What do they want to know?
Not every vacancy will state what you should include in your cover letter but where it does, make sure that you include everything that is asked for. Where you can’t do this, explain why.
Using a template or example letters
It may prove helpful to use a template and read through a selection of sample cover letters before you write your own. This can be especially helpful when you’re a new jobseeker, changing careers, or simply lack confidence.
The key to using a cover letter template effectively is to view it alongside the job advert/description and your research. This avoids producing a one-size-fits-all cover letter and ensures that your cover letter is specific and relevant.
There are plenty of free online templates and example cover letters. You might like to start with My Perfect CV.
Wrapping it up
Your cover letter will often be the first part of your job application that an employer sees so it is important that it gives a great first impression. Take just as much time and care with your cover letter as your CV to ensure that you stand out from the other candidates.