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Writing your CV is bad enough without having to write a cover letter as well. For most of us it’s hard to even know where to begin.
And that’s completely understandable. All of a sudden you’re expected to write a formal document that proves you’re the stand out candidate for the job. That’s a big ask.
Unless you have an easy-to-follow cover letter structure that is. This guide will show you how to structure a cover letter and all the essential sections you need to include.
Think of it as a paint by numbers for writing a cover letter. Now let’s get started on your masterpiece.
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Need a more detailed guide on cover letter writing? Read more: How to Write a Cover Letter: Complete Guide
A cover letter consists of five essential parts: your contact information, a salutation, the body of the cover letter, and a sign-off.
Read on and we’ll cover each of them in turn.
1. Cover Letter Header (Contact Information)
This part is easy. Just remember to stick to the rules for UK cover letter structure and you’ll be set. Here’s how to structure a cover letter header.
- First right-align your text, then write your contact details, leave a space and write the date. Make sure you use the correct format for the date too, e.g. 3rd April 2020.
- Then switch to left-alignment and include the recipient’s contact information.
Here’s a cover letter header template:
[Your First & Last Names]
[Your Postal Address]
[Your Phone Number]
[Your Email Address]
[Date of Writing]
[Manager’s Job Title]
[Company’s Postal Address]
2. Cover Letter Salutation
You’re probably tempted to skip over this section. But don’t be. The worst thing you can do is just write To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir or Madam and hope for the best. You have to personalise.
Use LinkedIn, phone the company, do whatever it takes to find out the hiring manager’s name and use it. That’s because using a person’s name has a powerful effect on their brain, instantly boosting their attention.
And if you really can’t find a name? Stick to Dear Hiring Manager. It’s the greeting most preferred by employers when you don’t know who you’re sending your letter to.
Read more: How to Format a Cover Letter
3. Cover Letter Body
Now we’ve got to the main part of your cover letter structure. This is where you knock the socks off the recruiter and win that interview. Let’s break it down.
First Paragraph (The Hook)
It’s essential that you start off strong. Just like the title says, you’ve got to hook the reader and grab their attention. You can do that by showing off some compelling achievements or experience that prove you’re an ideal candidate. Here’s how to do it.
- Make your intent obvious. Always mention the role and the company by name.
- Convey passion. Show energy and enthusiasm for the role. This isn’t the time for a stiff upper lip.
- If you were referred to the role, mention it now. Contacts and connections are a powerful form of social proof that’s highly persuasive.
- Showcase an impressive professional achievement using an accomplishment statement. Or alternatively—
- Write a belief statement. Demonstrate that you mirror the values and goals of the role/organisation. This is an especially popular strategy for the education sector.
- You can also show off some knowledge of news and current events relating to the employer. Check out their website and use Google’s news aggregator.
Read more: How to Start a Cover Letter
The key here is not to just rehash your CV. Your cover letter should complement your CV with additional information, not just repeat what’s already been said. Show that you’re the best candidate for the job. And the critical word here is show, don’t just tell.
The best way to do that is by using numbered achievements and expressing your content as PAR statements. And remember to keep it short and punchy. Bullet points are a great way of emphasising your achievements and you should bold any impressive figures to make them jump off the page. E.g. Increased sales pipeline by 250% quarter on quarter.
Read more: What to Include in a Cover Letter
Third Paragraph (The Call to Action)
According to the old saying, first impressions last. But evidence shows that it’s actually last impressions that are more powerful. So your closing paragraph is a vital part of your cover letter structure. Here’s how to nail it.
- Always say thank you. Gratitude isn’t just good manners, it’s a powerful motivator.
- Target yourself to the job. Use this opportunity to draw connections between your own skills and the job requirements in the advert. Which you can do by—
- Making a promise. Offer to show the recruiter how you can make a saving or increase profits. Offer up a juicy titbit that’ll make them want to know more. Or alternatively—
- Show your goals for growth. Explain why you care about this company and this job, and that you plan to develop your skills and grow within the role.
- Finish up with a call to action. Actively encourage the recruiter to contact you and continue the conversation.
Read more: How to End a Cover Letter
4. Cover Letter Sign-Off
The structure of a cover letter isn’t complete without a cover letter sign-off. It’s generally best to stick to standard UK business letter format. Use Yours sincerely if you addressed the letter to a named person and Yours faithfully if you didn’t, e.g. Dear Hiring Manager.
Then last of all include your full name and for an extra professional flourish, a scanned copy of your handwritten signature. We’re almost done, but there’s one more thing you need to get the basic structure of a cover letter right.
5. Cover Letter Layout
A good layout is integral to creating an effective cover letter structure. Think of it as the frame that completes the picture. This is what you need to do.
- Choose a clear, professional font set to 11–12 pt. Good CV fonts are perfect for cover letters.
- Set your line spacing to 1 or 1.15.
- Make your page margins to one inch on each side to maximise white space and improve readability.
- Be short and sweet. Your cover letter length should never be more than one page.
Read more: Cover Letter Layout & Writing Tips
By now you’ll be a master of how to structure a cover letter. But here’s a reminder to make sure.
Good cover letter structure includes:
- Cover letter header
- Cover letter salutation
- Cover letter body with three paragraphs
- Cover letter sign-off
Thanks for reading. What else would you like to know about UK cover letter structure? Are there any specific cover letter structure examples you’d like to see? Ask away in the comments section and I’ll be happy to help.