What is a cover letter?
A cover letter accompanies a CV (and/or completed application form). It's an opportunity to highlight what's in your CV and to provide real examples to support your ability to do the job. Some recruiters place more emphasis on the cover letter than the CV so it pays to take care with it.
What should I write in a cover letter?
Unless you are asked to apply by letter of application only, a cover letter should be brief and drive home the key aspects of why you are a good candidate. It should summarise what's in your CV, by emphasising your key strengths in relation to the job.
A cover letter should include a heading to make it clear which job you're applying for and, following the introductory paragraph, it can take the form of bullet points or short statements. It should also include your own name, address and contact details.
How do I start and end a cover letter?
Make it clear which job you're referring to by using a heading and an opening line such as, 'In response to your advertisement on the Prospects website for the role of XXXXXX, I write to enclose my CV'.
If you're given a named person you should address the letter to that person and begin the letter, Dear Ms Jones, and end with Yours sincerely, Justin Smith.
If you don't know the name of the person, but have a job title, such as the HR manager, you should address the letter to the HR manager, and include Dear Sir or Madam, and end with Yours faithfully, Justin Smith.
A cover letter should always end positively and look ahead to the next stage, for example, 'I would be happy to provide further information at interview' or 'I look forward to hearing from you'.
How do I write a cover letter for a job that's not advertised?
This kind of letter is sometimes referred to as a 'speculative letter'. This means that you're writing to find out if there are likely to be any vacancies in the future. Your speculative letter should be welcoming and enthusiastic.
It's more difficult to write a speculative letter because you're not responding to a specific vacancy but, with some research about the company, you can find out about previous job advertisements and angle your letter accordingly.
If you've undertaken work experience at the company, you can draw on your knowledge of that.