How to Write a Job Application Cover Letter

- hints, tips advice and guidance on how to write a job application cover letter.

CV & job application letter includes:

    •  CV preparation
    •  Job application cover letter

With the CV complete, the next stage is to send it off to prospective employers that have been found. When doing this it is necessary to write a job application cover letter. This cover letter will accompany the CV. Its main aim is to enable your CV to be read rather than just being placed into the "pending" file.

With many large organisations receiving vast quantities of CVs, it is necessary to provide as much help as possible to ensure that your CV is read. A well written job application cover letter will explain what job you are applying for and why. It will detail some of the salient points in the CV to provide an introduction into the CV itself.


Job application cover letter contents

The letter should be short and succinct. It may possibly contain four or five paragraphs which could be structured as below:

  1. Opening paragraph:   The opening paragraph is an introduction. It will state which job you are applying for and possibly where you saw any job advertisement. It may also state that the CV is enclosed.

  2. Second paragraph:   This section of the job application cover letter can be used to explain why you are applying detailing what particular experience skills or reasons you have that would make you suitable for the job.

  3. Third paragraph:   This paragraph can be used to explain why you would be of particular value to the company, and give them a reason for taking your application further.

  4. Closing paragraph:   This section can be used to state when you would be available to be contacted and interviewed, detailing any times when you may not be available.

As part of the standard letter format, your address should be at the top right hand corner of the letter. It may also be necessary to include a relevant telephone number here.

This format for a job application cover letter is only one suggestion. It can be formatted as required according to the particular situation.


Cover letter hints and tips

There are several useful hints and tips about writing a job application cover letter. Most of them are very straightforward. However, one of the most useful ideas is to put yourself in the place of the person receiving the letter and asking whether it would be useful. For example receiving a job application or CV with no covering letter would imply the person did not really care, or know how to apply. Similarly receiving a job application cover letter that is well thought out and well presented will enhance and prospects of being successful at the job interview.

Some simple pointers, hints and tips are given below:

  1. Don't make the letter too long:   The letter is meant to be eye catching, so don't re-iterate the CV. Keep the letter succinct.

  2. Avoid flowery language:   Again the letter is meant to concise and to the point. Flowery language will seem out of place.

  3. Tailor the letter to the job and company:   It is worth making sure the letter is not seen as a "round robin" sent out to many people and companies. If it is tailored to the company it will show professionalism.

  4. Check spelling:   Don't rely on the spell checker. Read the letter over very carefully for spelling and grammatical errors. Even get someone else to check it through as they will see it with different eyes and may have some helpful suggestions.

  5. Email and snail mail:   Even if a CV is sent in by email, a covering note in the email should contain many of the basics of a paper letter, but obviously within the general email format.

  6. Use good quality paper:   While not spending out specially for any paper, the letter should be produced on good quality office paper. It obviously must never be lined even if submitting a handwritten letter.

  7. Typed / computer generated not hand written:   It is normally expected that unless a handwritten letter is specifically requested, the letter should be typed or more usually these days generated on a computer. The font chosen should normally be fairly formal in nature.


Cover letter format

When writing a traditional (paper) letter, it is still necessary to adopt the standard format used for letters. Although this can vary from time to time, a standard format for one is shown below:



                                                                                Your house
                                                                                Your Road
                                                                                Your Town
                                                                                Post or Zip Code


                                                                                Today's date

Name of contact person
Their company
Their Road
Their Town
Their Post or Zip Code

Dear Mr / Mrs / Miss / Ms Contact name,

Re: Title to define what you are writing about, e.g. the job position XYZ and any reference

This space is then used for the various paragraphs within the job application cover letter. As mentioned above there should be four or five paragraphs to cover the details required.

It should be remembered that the job application letter should be concise, and it should look and sound professional. In this way it will help the job application stand out from the others.

Further paragraphs ......


Yours sincerely,

  Space for your signature

Print your name





This is a fairly standard letter layout. It can obviously be tailored to meet the individual situation, but generally this format is often used.

There are a couple of points or protocol that are worth noting:

  • Use of Yours sincerely, and Yours faithfully:   It is normal that the ending "Yours sincerely" is used when the letter is addressed to a particular person by name, i.e. if the letter started with "Dear Mr Bloggs", then the ending would use "Yours sincerely". When using a generic addressee, i.e. "Dear Sir" or "Dear Madam", then "Yours faithfully" should be used.
  • Use of Mr and Esquire:   In general it is possible to use either "Mr Bloggs" or "F Bloggs Esquire" but never use both together, i.e. "Mr F Bloggs Esquire" should never be used.

Although life is les formal these days, addressing the letter in the correct way shows a professional attitude, and someone who is more likely to be able to handle themselves properly if they need to represent the company on business.


Summary

having a professional looking job application cover letter can greatly help in getting the accompanying CV or resume viewed by the right people. If the job application cover letter looks professional then those processing any job applications will be more likely to take it seriously. With many companies receiving literally thousands or applications, the overall package of information received by them has to look good and it must stand out from the others. Having a properly composed and set out accompanying letter is part of this.

By Ian Poole


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