Cover letters are incredibly important. Typically sent as an email, you've got to pass this test just to get your CV or portfolio looked at. A good covering letter will tell someone who you are, why you contacted them and what you want. A bad cover letter, or no cover letter at all, and your application will most likely be ignored.
Make it personal. Nobody has time for a generic 'Dear Sir/Madam' because you didn't have time to find out who they were. Be quick to say this is who I am, this is why I am emailing you and this is what I want. Anything extra must be golden. Don't suck up but if there is something you truly admire about them, the company they work for or the brands they work with, let them know.
What makes a good cover letter?
Generic cover letters are common place but using a covering letter template is not the best way to go. Definitely take stylistic and structural cues from others and have your own template to personalise, but try to steer clear of replicating a covering letter from another person or using clichèd job words and phrases (such as "I'm passionate about media" or "I work well individually and as a team player").
Employers can spot a generic email in an instant. Your covering letter is your chance to show off and differentiate yourself from the crowd and that's exactly what am employer needs to see you doing before they can justify giving you any more of their time.
Watch James Weller, graduate recruiter at Mavens of London, burn through applications, throwing out anything that's even remotely generic.
Personality is key to just about everything you do to get a job. Cover letters are no different. In fact, cover letters offer you one of the biggest opportunities to really show off who you are. Let your CV take care of your qualifications, experience and interests while using your cover letter to tell someone why you'd like to work for them.
You can also add personality to a cover letter by writing how you actually speak. If you were chatting to a friend, you would never say "I believe I am the ideal candidate for the position...". Try to put things a little more naturally.
A company website is an expression of their personality, if it appeals to you then it will probably be a good match. Try to show that if you genuinely feel that way. Adding humour and making someone laugh will go a long way but be careful with comedy because everyone has a different sense of humour.
Hugely important is the way you write. Across any element of finding a job your spelling, punctuation, grammar and writing structure will not only show your professionalism but demonstrate the care you put into your work. Whereas errors in your writing will suggest to employers that you don't really care that much about the job.
Proof read your work as much as you can, get friends and people you know to check it over. Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said “Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning — and then edit it.” It’s important your covering letter has been crafted as well as it can be.
David Ogilvy has some more important writing tips here.
7 steps to producing a great covering letter
- 1. Make it personal, professional and polite.
- 2. Say who you are, why you are contacting them and what you want.
- 3. Make sure your writing makes sense.
- 4. Have your covering letter proof read by at least one other person.
- 5. Reference how you came across the job.
- 6. Explain why you're applying and how the job appeals to you.
- 7. Reference your CV if you want to add detail...