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How to nail the perfect cover letter


letters tied with a ribbon
Don't forget the personal touch - .just not too personal...

Most job applications ask for move than just a CV and filling in an application form. Let's be honest, if they didn't then employers would be looking at quite a lot of identical information.


In the world of AI-generated texts, it can be tempting to just type in, 'write me an application letter for an accountant' and send whatever comes through. But again, is that going to make your applciation jump out?


Ultimately, companies are employing people. That might be stating the obvious but, whilst your CV showcases the skills, qualifications and experience you have, and how they meet the specifications of the job, a cover letter is your first real opportunity to let your personality shine through.


Even if there isn't a specific request for a cover letter, if an online application has a box that reads, 'Upload any additional documents here' then it's definitely worth writing one.


If your application is completely online, there's no need for the layout formalities of your address or even the date. However, if a document is to be uploaded separately, it's worth doing those things. So:

Your address in the top right hand corner of the page

Leave a blank line here

Then today's date, written in full: 17 February 2023

Leave another blank line

Dear ... [back over on the left]

Leave another line

Re: [job title]

Yet another blank line

Start your letter.


For the addressee (the person you're writing to), try to do a bit of research to find out the key person's name. If you can't, or you're applying via an agency and don't know the company's name, Dear Sir/Madam will suffice.


And when it comes to research, make sure it's thorough. In addition to a Google search, it's worth looking at reviews. Depending on the nature of the organisation, it is often also a good idea to try to contact someone directly to talk through the role. It gets your name out there but also allows you the opportunity to ask them a few questions ahead of time: how long have you worked for..? What do you enjoy about going to work every day? (Silence or laughter can tell you an awful lot..!)


In the body of your letter you need to address three things:

  • why you want the job

  • why you want to work for them

  • why they should want you for the job

Use examples of when you've demonstrated the skills or qualities they're looking for. Say why the company appeals to you in particular. And what is it about you that makes you right for the role, and for the organisation?


Use positive language - don't write, "I think that I could..." or "I might be able to..." Instead, go for "I'm confident that I can..." or "Once in post I will..." Believe in your qualities, otherwise why would anyone else?


In terms of length, you should be looking at no more than a side of A4, so roughly 350-450 words. For a more senior or C-suite role, it may be twice that. Keep something back for the interview!


Finally, close your letter with one of two endings:

Yours faithfully, [if you don't know the name of the person you're writing to] or

Yours sincerely, [if you do.]


Neither 'sincerely' nor 'faithfully' have capital letters, 'Yours' doesn't have an apostrophe, and both phrases end with a comma, before you write your name in full below.



Fountain pen writing a signature
Signed and finished

And if you're still not feeling confident, drop me a line at simon@nextstepscv.com or via the website at www.nextstepscv.com and let's have a chat about how I can help you write the letter to get you that job you're dreaming of.

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