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How to Write a Perfect Cover Letter

How to Write a Perfect Cover Letter main image

By Kit Durant

So, you’ve finished writing your CV. It may have taken a week to complete, but now it’s finally time to get started on that cover letter.

Understandably, this may not sound like the most exciting of proposals. It can certainly be a time consuming, energy-sapping task, which will inevitably have to be tweaked and rewritten time and time again to suit the specifications of every single employer.  But don’t be put off!

Ignore those feelings of dread and despair, and believe that constructing these letters can be an enjoyable experience. It’s a chance to express yourself and demonstrate how exceptional you are (without getting too delusional).  

Just remember, while they may seem tedious at the time, ultimately they can prove very rewarding - as long as certain criteria are met.

Showcase your talent

Unless your course required you to undertake a placement or internship, chances are you won’t have experienced full-time work while you were a student. But, just because your CV is not yet brimming with a rich background of employment, you shouldn’t be dissuaded from applying for graduate jobs. 

Oblivious to it you may be, but the three or more years you’ve spent in higher education will have trained you up in a variety of skills most employers will be looking for.

In terms of your intellectual ability, the analytical focus of your independent research, lectures and seminars will have instilled a critical and malleable approach to problem solving. Also, your communication skills have been strengthened significantly by being able to effectively articulate your arguments in written work and vocally during class discussions.

A hedonistic lifestyle is, unfortunately, not one that comes cheap, meaning a lot of students have no other choice but to look for part-time work, in order to alleviate their self-imposed financial strain.

Some get lucky and find a job they truly enjoy; others are not so fortunate. But, regardless whether this time has been spent pouring out overpriced pints to locals who hold you personally responsible, or enduring irate members of the public screaming down the phone at you for disturbing their dinner, you will be able to find transferrable skills from any job to support your application.  

Perhaps your experience in telemarketing has developed your resilience, or maybe you were based in a hospitality role, which improved your ability to manage your time effectively, by having to deliver strong and efficient service to a number of customers. Whatever the experience, it will have been useful, so don’t be afraid to link yourself to any skill an employer is looking for, just be sure to explain how it is relevant to you.  

Make it personal

Find somewhere in your letter to tell the reader a bit about yourself - your background, interests, achievements – and make them applicable to the role.

There is no need to embellish your character, but do be creative. Avoid just telling them you enjoy playing sport and instead explain how your sporting history has inspired your strong leadership qualities, a dogged sense of determination, and a refusal to be defeated no matter how difficult the opponent or task.

On the other hand, be careful not to bore your prospective employer with a self-absorbed monologue. Put those research skills to use to demonstrate a strong knowledge of the company and the role. Look through their website for ideas. You might want to mention how the planned overseas expansion of their business suits your own burgeoning ambition, or it could be that their small, independent nature is what attracted you to them, as it would allow you to have a more pivotal role in the overall success of the business.

Similarly, pay close attention to what the employer has put in their job specification. Do not discuss your impeccable charm and limitless generosity if these are not traits they’re looking for. 

With most jobs attracting a large number of applicants, you will have to find some way to stand out from the crowd. While it may seem obvious, one thing people tend to forget is to use this opportunity to articulate through their writing an explicit desire and enthusiasm for the position you’re applying for.

Make them understand how much you want the job and why this one means more to you than any others.

Find a style that suits you

Crafting a cover letter is a very personal exercise with no compulsory format through which it must be structured, so what works for one person may not work for you.

Having said that, there will be times where you feel that your specific method has become a little monotonous, and some exposure to a different one could help reinvigorate your own.

The internet is a great place to start. There is an near endless list of example letters and pointers on how to improve your technique and approach to applications.

You might also want to talk to others who are involved in a similar process. Is there anything in their style that would improve yours? 

Eliminate mistakes

There may not be one certified way to format your cover letter, but there are a number of mistakes you can make which will condemn your letter straight to the recycling bin.

Grammatical errors are common in applications. They will not necessarily ruin your chances, but if an employer is looking for a way to separate two equal candidates then errors such as these could be the deciding outcome.

The most crucial thing to remember is: always check your work. Are there any spelling mistakes, repeated words, missing words? Are your points clear and detailed, without being verbose and repetitive?

The biggest mistake you can make is to ignore the need to proofread your work.

Kit Durant writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in finding candidates their perfect internship. To browse our graduate jobs London listings, visit our website.

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