How to create the perfect cover letter

A decent cover letter can make all the difference when trying to get noticed by would-be employers. Here’s our guide to getting it right

By Sophie Cole

It’s tricky to get yourself noticed when hunting for a job, but an expertly crafted cover letter can make all the difference. It helps you stand out from the crowd, meaning your CV gets a thorough reading and you end up ahead of the pack.

But what exactly is the mysterious cover letter? And how do you write one that secures your dream job?

A cover letter is a one-page document in which you explain why you’re the best candidate for the job. It highlights your specific skills, achievements or experience and persuades the person reading to give your CV careful consideration.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it can be tricky to get your cover letter right. Go in too strong and you’ll seem desperate or immodest. Play your achievements down, however, and you’ll not achieve the cut through you seek.

Fortunately, Just Recruitment’s consultants have decades of experience to draw on. They’ve waded their way through a lot of cover letters in their time. So we asked them for tips on how to get your cover letter just right. Here’s what they had to say.

Make it personal. “Always address the letter to someone, rather than just the company,” says Victoria Griffiths from the Haverhill office. “Doing so shows that you’ve taken time to find out more about your prospective employer. It’s an indication that you really care about the role.”

Show a bit of personality. “Despite what you were taught at school, you don’t need to be formal throughout,” says Bridie James from the Sudbury office. “Well-judged humour or spark can help you stand out, showing something of your character. Don’t go overboard, and certainly don’t risk any smutty jokes. But raise the odd smile and you stand a much better chance of escaping the rejects pile.”

Keep it simple. “You should keep your cover letter to the point,” says Abigail Webb from the Witham branch. “Cover letters should never be more than one page and shouldn’t just repeat the information that’s on your CV. Include an introductory paragraph to grab the recruiter’s attention, two or three bullet points highlighting your most notable achievements and a closing paragraph stating clearly why you’re interested in the job. That’ll be just enough to pique the reader’s interest, without bombarding them with unnecessary information.”

Think about the role. “Tailor your cover letter for each application, highlighting skills that are especially relevant to that role,” says Joe Grimmer from the Ipswich office. “You should also include a specific mention of why you want to work for that company in particular, perhaps by referencing awards it has won or notable achievements from the last few years. Make it seem as though you’re interested in the company for an ideological reason, rather than just your monthly pay cheque. That way, you’ll give the recruiter a reason to follow up your application.”

Show don’t tell. “The cover letter is your Dragon’s Den moment, so provide evidence or examples of your achievements to turn the recruiter’s head,” says Abigail Webb from the Witham office. “No one trusts abstract assertions of another person’s quality. But they will be persuaded by hard facts.”

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