The first thing a potential employer sees in your job application is the cover letter. This doesn't just support your CV – it's an opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd and persuade the recruiter to put you through to the next round.
Be wary of spending hours on perfecting your CV at the expense of your cover letter. If you need some inspiration on what to include and what format to use, here are our helpful guides – just remember not to copy them as exact templates.
1. Standard, conservative style
This is ideal for sectors such as business, law, accountancy and retail. For more creative sectors, a letter like this might be less appealing, and could work against you.
Dear Mr Black,
Please find enclosed my CV in application for the post advertised in the Guardian on 30 November.
The nature of my degree course has prepared me for this position. It involved a great deal of independent research, requiring initiative, self-motivation and a wide range of skills. For one course, [insert course], an understanding of the [insert sector] industry was essential. I found this subject very stimulating.
I am a fast and accurate writer, with a keen eye for detail and I should be very grateful for the opportunity to progress to market reporting. I am able to take on the responsibility of this position immediately, and have the enthusiasm and determination to ensure that I make a success of it.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this application and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
2. Standard speculative letter
This may vary according to the nature of the organisation and the industry you're applying to.
Dear Mr Brown,
I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies in your company. I enclose my CV for your information.
As you can see, I have had extensive vacation work experience in office environments, the retail sector and service industries, giving me varied skills and the ability to work with many different types of people. I believe I could fit easily into your team.
I am a conscientious person who works hard and pays attention to detail. I'm flexible, quick to pick up new skills and eager to learn from others. I also have lots of ideas and enthusiasm. I'm keen to work for a company with a great reputation and high profile like [insert company name].
I have excellent references and would be delighted to discuss any possible vacancy with you at your convenience. In case you do not have any suitable openings at the moment, I would be grateful if you would keep my CV on file for any future possibilities.
3. Letter for creative jobs
We've used the example of a copywriter but you can adapt it for your profession. The aim of a creative letter is to be original and show you have imagination, but understand what the job entails. Balance is essential: don't be too wacky, or it will turn off the reader.
Dear Ms Green,
· Confused by commas?
· Puzzled by parenthesis?
· Stumped by spelling?
· Perturbed by punctuation?
· Annoyed at the apostrophe? (And alliteration?)
Well, you're not alone. It seems that fewer and fewer people can write. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who can read. So they'll spot a gaffe from a mile off. And that means it's a false economy, unless you're 100% sure of yourself, to write your own materials. (Or to let clients do it for themselves.)
To have materials properly copywritten is, when one considers the whole process of publishing materials and the impact that the client wishes to make, a minor expense. Sloppiness loses clients, loses customers.
There is an answer. Me. Firm quotes are free. You can see some of what I do on my multilingual website at [insert web address]. If you'd like, I can get some samples out to you within 24 hours. And, if you use me, you'll have some sort of guarantee that you can sleep soundly as those tens of thousands of copies are rolling off the presses.
Luck shouldn't come into it!
With kindest regards
Other helpful resources
•How to write a perfect CV and cover letter
•Applying for jobs without experience? How to build and sell your skills
•Five steps to the perfect graduate CV
•School-leavers and graduates: how to write your first CV
•How to write a personal statement for your CV
•CV templates to fit every stage of your career
Looking for a job? Browse Guardian Jobs or sign up to Guardian Careers for the latest job vacancies and career advice
Today, recruiters on average spend only spend six seconds looking at your resume. This means that cover letters are the way to shine in the application process. While many jobseekers dismiss the value of a well-written cover letter, you shouldn’t!
Recruiters and hiring managers often use cover letters to distinguish between similar candidates. That means that if you and Joe Schmo have the same basic credentials, a hiring manager will likely turn to your cover letter to make a decision.
Make it be you! View the cover letter samples, below, to learn how.
Your resume may be packed full of your academic and professional accomplishments but often they are pretty dry documents. Yet, your cover letter is your chance to show your personality and elaborate on the laundry list of achievements showcased in your resume.
Make your resume come alive with a cover letter that shows off all you have to offer the company in question. Not sure how to prove that? Our cover letter samples can help. Below, we’ve created a sample resume and cover letter sample to show you step-by-step how to use a cover letter to enhance your resume.
This cover letter accomplishes three major things.
(c) 222.555.1212 (e)email@example.com
Dear Ms. Taylor:
Please accept my resume as application to the Customer Service Representative position at L.L. Bean. I am a customer service professional with more than five years of experience in the field who has been wearing L.L. Bean clothing for as long as I can remember. I would love to become a part of your team!
Your job ad calls for an experienced customer service representative and I fit the bill. I began my career as a part-time call center representative at Lux Woman, a high-end online fashion retailer. In less than a year, I was promoted to a full-time Customer Service Representative position. In that role, I proved my ability to quickly resolve customer problems and complaints to their satisfaction. In fact, in 2013 I was awarded Top Customer Service Representative for my stellar track-record of customer service.
From Lux, I moved on to a position at Fetch Dog Walking Service where I have continued to pursue my goal of high-quality customer service and the quick resolution of problems and complaints. As your job description calls for, I have a proven track record of excellence in customer service in my current role, with a 92% satisfaction rating in customer surveys. This represents one of the strongest ratings at Fetch Dog Walking Service.
Also in your job ad, you mention experience handling customer inquiries via a website or app as a desired skill. I’d like to point out that in addition to my regular telephone customer service duties, in my current role I am also charged with troubleshooting customer problems on both our website and app.
Currently, I am seeking a new challenge at a larger organization and I would love to be considered for the Customer Service Representative at L.L. Bean. Thank you for reviewing my credentials. I look forward to hearing from you.
MYTH: There is no point in using numbers and data in my cover letter.
Some candidates make the mistake of forgetting to use supporting data in their cover letters. Instead, they only put such data in their resumes. As our cover letter samples prove, your cover letter is a great opportunity to highlight your professional achievements. Most recruiters and hiring managers spend only six seconds reading a resume. Because of that, your cover letter is a second chance to drive home the qualifications that make you the right fit for the job.
Use data wherever possible on your resume. If you have an impressive list of achievements, consider calling them out on your cover letter by using bullet points. Mention awards you’ve won, an impressive sales record, and other measurable achievements for the most impact.
MYTH: A single cover letter will do for every job application.
Sure, some information will be the same in each cover letter – your name, length of experience, and even some elements of your skill set. However, the bulk of each cover letter should be personalized to the individual job ad. Look again at our cover letter samples and notice how they echo the language of the job ad. Utilizing the keywords and phrases used in the job ad is critical to getting an advantage in a competitive market. Your cover letter is an opportunity to show that you understand the requirements of the role and the needs the company is seeking to fill.
Don’t waste the opportunity! Use our cover letter samples to learn how to write a cover letter that will appeal to employers.
MYTH: The format of the letter doesn’t really matter.
Like our cover letter samples show, your letter should always have four main parts: a salutation or greeting, an opening paragraph, one or two short body paragraphs, and a closing statement. Keep it to a single page and keep it clean and simple, just like our cover letter sample above. A cover letter should never contain images or photos and shouldn’t be overly colorful or fussy. Keep your cover letter simple, clean and concise so that the focus stays on your accomplishments.
Keep it to a single page and keep it clean and simple, just like our cover letter sample above. A cover letter should never contain images or photos and shouldn’t be overly colorful or fussy. Keep your cover letter simple, clean and concise so that the focus stays on your accomplishments.
MYTH: It’s smart to point out that you don’t have skill outlined in the job ad.
Some jobseekers feel compelled to point out that they lack certain skills outlined in the job description. Don’t fall into this trap! Like our cover letter samples demonstrate, highlight your skills, not your weaknesses. If you point out that you are lacking a key skill you are providing the recruiter with a reason not to extend an invitation to interview. Instead, emphasize the skills you do have and use your cover letter to explain how the are transferable to the job at hand. Let’s try an example. If you lack experience with a computer program mentioned in the job ad, then you could mention your experience with similar software.
MYTH: An employer won’t notice a small typo.
Hear this loud and clear: proofreading your cover letter (and resume) carefully should be a top priority. Some candidates see cover letters as an irrelevant step in the application process. Yet, the truth is that when applicants come to the table with similar backgrounds and skill sets, recruiters and hiring managers will look to their cover letters to help them single out which candidates to interview. Don’t make a conspicuous typo in your cover letter be what differentiates you from the competition. Read and reread your cover letter, run it through a spelling and grammar check, and send it to a trusted friend for a fresh set of eyes.
MYTH: Using general salutations is always acceptable.
This is a common misconception among jobseekers. Using a general greeting like, “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Sir or Madame” shows that you haven’t done your research.
Impress recruiters and hiring managers by digging in to find out how is doing the hiring for the role. Doing so will show the you are invested enough in the position to do your research. Look at the company’s website to find the names of the recruiting team. Or use LinkedIn to make a best guess at who’s in charge of the department to which you are applying. Can’t find the name of the hiring manager? Our cover letter samples can provide other original ideas for addressing your letter.
MYTH: A cover letter should be a regurgitation of my resume.
Cover letters can help jobseekers distinguish themselves from candidates with similar experience. To do this, show a little personality in your cover letter. Like our cover letter samples show, use the space to call out your unique achievements. Also, if you have a personal connection to the company in some way, consider writing about it.
Like in our cover letter example above, mention if you use a company’s products or if you are a big fan of it’s services. Doing so can prove that you have an understanding of the company’s mission, which is a big plus for employers. Always maintain a professional tone but don’t be afraid to use your cover letter to present a three-dimensional image of yourself.
MYTH: Using a photo of myself on my cover letter will improve my chances of getting an interview.
Nope. In fact, including a photo in your resume or cover letter is proven to hurt candidates. Research suggests that up to 88% of applicants who put a picture on a resume or cover letter have their applications rejected by hiring managers. Ditto for fussy fonts, fancy borders, or other images. Keep your resume clean and simple so as not to distract from your qualifications.
MYTH: Mirroring the wording of the job description will hurt my chances because it looks lazy.
Quite the opposite! Echoing the language used in the job ad could propel your application forward. Like in our cover letter sample above, using keywords and phrases from the job ad makes it easy for hiring managers to assess your skills.Our cover letter samples can show you how to echo the language of a job post in your next letter.
MYTH: Cover letters aren’t important because most recruiters will read my entire resume.
Recruiters will spend six seconds on average looking at a resume before deciding which candidates to interview. This makes writing a persuasive cover letter more important than ever. Use our cover letter samples to learn how to set yourself apart from the competition.