How to write a great cover letter for your CV

How to write a great cover letter for your CV

Many people are always wondering whether they should write a cover letter each time they apply for a position and the answer is definitely YES. A cover letter together with your CV is part of the tools you can use to market yourself to the prospective employer. You can’t definitely leave out anything that can work on your favor to secure your dream job. A cover letter introduces you and your CV to the recruiter, they will probably read it first before reading your CV. Your cover letter is your first and best chance to make a good impression.

The next question is what should be included in the cover letter?

Aim to make it entice the reader to take those few extra minutes to consider you against other applicants, make it very short but relevant to the job you are applying for. That is why you should write a new cover page for each job application and never use one cover letter for each job you are applying for.

Your cover letter should be specific to the position you are applying for, relating your skills and experience to those noted in the job posting.

Your cover letter should not only be “good in grammar” but generally there are some few rules to make it readable by somebody.

Don’t repeat your CV

Some people just copy and paste some few paragraphs from their CV into the cover letter. Remember, this letter is supposed to compliment your CV, so it should not be identical to it. You should read carefully the job advert to find out what kind of skills and qualifications they are looking for. Google around for the history of your field or company, and sprinkle some cool historical facts into your cover letter or even use one as a lead. Try to explain the reasons for your interest in the specific organization and identify your most relevant skills or experiences relevant to the job you are applying for. You should by all means express a high level of interest and knowledge about the position.

Keep it short

When it comes to cover letters, less is indeed more. Keep your cover letter short. One page is enough and three to four paragraphs in most cases should be all you need to pen down, if you go over one page then you are probably writing an essay instead. All you need is to include just sufficient information to encourage recruiters to want to learn more about you.

Read also on student companion: How to write a great professional Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Read also on student companion: Free professional CV templates

Email Cover Letter 

If you are emailing your application, put your covering letter in the body of the email. If you attach it with nothing in the email body it may be misidentified as spam. Many people like to attach it in their emails and leave the body of the email empty or they simply write, please find attached my CV and Cover letter. Format it as plain text as then it can be read by any email reader. Break your messages into short paragraphs with a full line gap between paragraphs to make it easy to read. DON’T “SHOUT” (WRITE IN UPPERCASE!). Before the closing of your email you could then say, please find attached my CV and some other documents you might want to submit with your application like academic records etc.

Who should you address your letter to?

Try to find the name of the person to write to. This name should in most cases be included in the job advert or you can do your home work to find out. It won’t normally hurt if you could phone the company to find out the right person instead of sending your application to a wrong person and end up in a dustbin without any reply.

If you don’t know the name of the person you are writing to, it’s always best to use the formal “Dear Sir/Madam” and to sign off your letter with “Yours Faithfully”. If you know the name of the person let’s say it’s Mrs Modise, you can start your letter with “Dear Mrs Modise” and sign off with “Yours Sincerely”.

If they have already emailed you, reply back in the same style, so if they have signed their email “Carole”, write Dear Carole, but if they have signed it “Ms Anna”, write Dear Ms Anna.

If they have emailed you and addressed you Hi John, then it’s OK to reply Hi Carole as well. You can also imitate the way they signed off, if they used “regards”, “best wishes”, then it’s safe to do the same.

Sample cover letter – structure

Your contact information

Full postal or residential address, email address and phone number(s)

Date your letter

Name and job title of recipient (if known)

Company or Agency name and full address


Dear Mr or Mrs (ideally address your letter to a named person who is dealing with recruitment)

or you could start with Dear Sir or Madam (but only if you cannot find out the recipient’s name)

Subject: If applying for an advertised position, insert job title and reference.

First paragraph

State the position you are applying for and reference details of the advertisement. The first paragraph of your cover letter should express your interest in the position, and indicate why the role is particularly attractive to you. Briefly outline your current situation and why you are seeking change, tailoring your information to make it as relevant as possible to the organisation or job applied for.

Second paragraph

Give reasons why the position appeals to you based on the job’s specifications, knowledge of the company’s market sector and your future ambitions. When you talk briefly about the company, it will demonstrate that you have properly read the advert and have done some research into their organisation.

Third paragraph

Here you can argue why you qualify for the job based on your academic qualifications, experience and skills. Highlight your skills that you can bring into the company and your previous achievements.

Final paragraph

Express confidence in your ability to contribute to the success of the company, indicate that you look forward to taking your application a step further at interview and assure the prospective employer of your availability.

Complimentary close

Yours sincerely (if you know the recipient’s name)

Yours faithfully (if you do not know the recipient’s name)

Read also on student companion: Top 20 Job Interview Questions and Best Answers

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