Job application, ready. But wait. They have to see that attachment. Just say please find attached my CV right? Not so fast. There's a better way.
There are plenty of guides out there about how to write a good cover letter. But you don’t just want good. There’s plenty of ‘good’ candidates out there too. You want to be great.
So this guide is going to give you the ultimate collection of tips for writing a great cover letter. You’ll get cover letter tips and hacks that’ll help push your job application to the top of the pile.
Now let’s jump straight into our baker’s dozen of tips for writing a cover letter.
Want to write your cover letter fast? Use our cover letter builder. Choose from 20+ professional cover letter templates that match your resume. See actionable examples and get expert tips along the way.
Sample Cover Letter for a CV—See more cover letter templates and create your cover letter here.
Looking for job-specific CV and cover letter tips? Read more:
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- Customer Service Cover Letter Example & Writing Guide
Top 14 Cover Letter Tips for 2020
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Cover letters are still important. Reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated. More than half of employers still think cover letters are a job application ‘must-have’. So ignore them at your peril. And now all the tips for writing a cover letter you need to write one that’s perfect.
1. Nail Your Layout
Always follow standard UK business letter formatting. Think of your cover letter as a test of your written communication skills. Get it right and you’ve already demonstrated a soft skill that 75% of hiring managers have on their wish list. Here’s what you need to do.
- Make sure your own address is right-aligned and follow it up with the date, also right-aligned.
- Use the correct format for the date e.g. 27th April 2020.
- Set left-alignment for the rest of your cover letter, but don’t justify.
- Choose a clean and modern font. Good CV fonts are great for cover letters too.
- Set your margins to one inch on each side of the page and insert spaces between paragraphs to create lots of reader-friendly white space.
Read more: Cover Letter Layout Example & Writing Tips
2. Use a Name
There’s nothing worse than starting off on the wrong foot. Whatever you do never start your cover letter with To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir/Madam. Firstly, it’s old-fashioned, Queen Victoria is no longer on the throne. Second, it’s cold and impersonal.
Using a name is both friendly and effective. It has a powerful influence on the reader’s brain activating their attention, so they take in everything that follows. So how do you find the hiring manager’s name? See if it’s posted in the job advert, research the company’s corporate website or LinkedIn. You could even just phone the employer and ask.
And if you really can’t find a name to use? Go for Dear Hiring Manager. It’s not perfect but it’s certainly more modern and personal than the dreaded To Whom It May Concern.
Read more: How to Start a Cover Letter
3. Tailor and Target
Many candidates just copy and paste the same cover letter for every job application. Don’t fall into this trap. Recruiters can spot it from a mile off and it’s a great way of getting your application rejected. One of the most effective cover letter tips is to write a new one for each job application.
You need to show why you’re the best candidate for that job specifically. Make a master list of your skills, experience and professional achievements. Then check the job advert, research the employer, and use what you discover to include information that’s targeted to the job you’re applying for.
Read more: How to Write a Cover Letter: Complete Guide
4. Don’t Rehash Your CV
Your cover letter should never just be a rewrite of bullet points from your CV. It’s much more than that. This is how a cover letter contrasts with a CV.
- It has more scope to show in-depth research and understanding of the prospective employer and its needs.
- It lets you explain why you want this job and what your career goals are. You can show passion and enthusiasm.
- It lets you add more details about skills and achievements. Your CV is constrained by its length and format. But a cover letter gives you more room to really explain what you can contribute.
5. Include Numbers
Add numbers to quantify what you did and add weight to your achievements. You could mention contributing to profits or achieving a saving, as these examples demonstrate.
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter—Numbers Example
As Marketing Manager for Excelsior, I created a new marketing campaign that increased conversions by 40%, leading to a £5,000 increase in sales.
As an IT Consultant for Deltron, I migrated data from three legacy systems to a single modern cloud storage solution, achieving a cost saving of £8,000 per annum.
But it doesn’t have to be about money. There are other ways you can integrate numbers too as these examples demonstrate.
I am confident in leading large teams, having managed 30 consultants as Call Centre Manager for Standard Payday Loans.
I am a strong believer in using team collaboration to achieve optimal results, having worked with a team of 10 UI developers as Senior UX Designer at Redhill Systems.
Read more: What to Include in a Cover Letter for a Job
6. Use Keywords
What’s a keyword? In the context of recruitment, it’s simply a word or phrase that describes experience, skills and abilities that are needed for the job being advertised. They’re a vital part of the ATS software that 75% of large companies use to scan incoming job applications. Miss out a vital keyword and the ATS rejects your application before a human recruiter even sees it.
So refer to the job advert, check for keywords and include them in your cover letter. Just be sure to keep your writing sounding natural and grammatically correct. Here’s what to look for. Everything that’s highlighted is a keyword.
Cover Letter Writing Tips—Keywords Example
We are seeking a retail sales assistant with 2+ years experience in the electronics retail sector. Must be confident in visual merchandising and be able to develop detailed product knowledge. Should be able to provide first-class customer service and maximise sales.
Read more: How to Write a CV: Professional UK Examples
7. Use Bullet Points
When you’re learning how to write a CV you’ll be told to use bullet points. But using bullet points is also one of the most effective cover letter writing tips too. Use bullet points to give emphasis to your achievements and make them leap off the page. Here’s an example.
Tips for Writing a Cover Letter—Bullet Points Example
In my current position at ABC Services, my most satisfying project has been supervising the improvement and optimisation of our customer service offering. With the assistance of my team of 30 advisors I have been able to:
- Analyse incoming call traffic to identify inefficiencies in staffing levels, altering shift patterns to achieve a five-minute reduction in call waiting times.
- Develop a single case handler approach to first and second stage complaints, increasing satisfaction with case resolution by 30%.
8. Stay Short
It’s one of the simplest tips on writing a cover letter. Keep it short and sweet. Never exceed one page in length. Recruiters give less than 30 seconds of attention to each job application, and that includes reading your CV too. So don’t overdo it.
Read more: How Long Should a Cover Letter Be
9. Make a Call to Action
Applying for a job can be soul-destroying, you spend all that time perfecting your CV and cover letter and then nothing. But the reason you’re not getting called for interviews could just be that you’re not asking. I don’t mean just demand an interview, you’ve got to do it the right way by finishing your cover letter with a call to action or CTA. Here’s an example.
Cover Letter Writing Tips—CTA Example
Please do get in contact with me at a time that is convenient for you so we can discuss the sales manager role further.
Read more: How to Format a Cover Letter
10. Use a Professional Sign-Off
It’s all too easy to ruin a good cover letter by using the wrong sign-off. This is not the time to get creative. Stick to Yours sincerely if you’ve written to a named person and Yours faithfully if you addressed it generically, such as Dear Hiring Manager.
Read more: How to End a Cover Letter
11. Email It
You may wish to send your cover letter as the body of an email with your CV attached. If you do, here are some cover letter format tips to adapt your letter to be sent as an email.
- Omit the postal addresses, both you and the recipient. You’re sending the cover letter by email so this information is no longer required. You can remove the date too.
- Put your own contact details immediately below your email signature. Include your phone number, LinkedIn profile and, if relevant, social media handles.
- Use a clear subject line. Recruiters have full in-boxes and work on multiple job vacancies. They need to easily see who you are and what job you’re applying for. Simply state your name and the role you’re targeting. E.g. ‘Application for Administrative Assistant Position—June Johnson’.
Read more: How to Address a Cover Letter
12. Edit & Check
Don’t make the mistake of making a mistake. What would you think if I’d titled this guide ‘Cover Letter Writting Tips’? Grammatical and spelling errors are considered the number one mistake that job seekers make. Thankfully though, there are plenty of ways to avoid them.
13. Get Speculative
There are actually two types of cover letters. The most common is a cover letter written as part of your application for an advertised role. However, you can also write a cover letter to apply for or enquire about jobs that aren’t being advertised. It’s a great way of accessing the hidden job market, which is estimated to fill 75% of posts for jobs.
14. Choose a Good Template
By now you’ve got all the cover letter writing tips you need. But to be sure of standing out from the crowd you need a cover letter that looks good too. The easiest way to achieve that is by using a professional cover letter template.
We’ve got 18 of them, all super easy to use. Just enter your content in our cover letter builder and get a perfectly formatted cover letter to impress recruiters with. Every cover letter comes with a matching CV template too. The example below is called Concept, feel free to give it a try.
And we’re done. Thanks for reading. Did you find our tips for writing a cover letter useful? Do you have your own UK cover letter tips you’d like to share? Do you need examples for specific jobs like graphic design cover letter tips or consulting cover letter tips? Ask away in the comments section and I’ll be happy to help.