Keen for an interview slot? How to write your first cover letter!

This blog is brought to you by Gena MacLean, our Programme Coordinator, Gena shares her HR (Human Resources) expertise on creating good first impressions with a cover letter to make you stand out from the crowd.

Why is it important to write a cover letter?

Although many potential job candidates will usually submit a CV outlining all their achievements, relevant experience and skills when applying for a job, a cover letter can be useful for summarising all of this in brief but interesting detail so that an employer will want to meet you and hopefully offer a candidate an interview! A well written cover letter can help you to stand out when competition for jobs is fierce.

What should the layout of a cover letter look like?

As a Human Resources graduate, I can tell you that it is very important to write your cover letter using a layout that will look professional. If a cover letter is not properly formatted or is full of spelling and grammar mistakes, then an employer may not read your cover letter to the end or take it seriously – it’s common sense, right?
First, the job applicant should write the following on the right-hand side of A4 paper.

Name
Address
Contact details
Date

After two-line spaces, on the left-hand side of the document, the individual should address the employer using “Dear Sir or Madam” or if known, the full name of the employer. The job candidate is then ready to start writing their cover letter, using two-line spaces to separate each paragraph. Once the content has been written, the letter can be signed off using “Yours Sincerely or Yours Faithfully”, followed by the individual’s full name.

What’s the difference between Yours Sincerely and Yours Faithfully?

If the letter begins with Dear Sir, Dear Sirs, Dear Madam, or Dear Sir/Madam, the close should be “Yours faithfully”.
If the letter begins with a personal name, e.g. Dear Mrs Smith, Dear Mr Jones, or Dear Ms MacDonald, it should be “Yours sincerely”.

What should the content of a cover letter contain?

The content of the cover letter should be brief but descriptive enough that an employer gains a good idea of what your relevant skills and experience are for the job. I have found from my own experience that cover letters become easier to write when you research the job description and company to gain an idea of what qualities an employer is expecting from a candidate.
The first paragraph of a cover letter should explain why you are interested in applying for the job at that particular company. A good way to start might be “I am writing to express a keen interest in your Administrator vacancy as I studied Business Administration at college and I am looking for my first role.” It might be an idea to explain what you learned on that training course before going on to describe what your relevant skills and work experience are in relation to the job description. An example would be if a job advert specifically wants the candidate to have good communication or planning skills then you would write about a job role or a personal experience which demonstrates to the employer that you have these skills. An example could be “When I worked in previous office roles, I significantly enhanced my communication skills speaking to business clients daily through face-to-face, telephone, email and formal letter communications.”
It is good practice to use a separate paragraph to write about each relevant skill or work experience and you should describe how you fulfil all the job criteria in the cover letter.

How long should a cover letter be?

A cover letter should never be longer than half to one full page of A4 paper. It is a brief, interesting but to the point account of your abilities and experience.
Now have a go at doing your own! Good Luck!

For more information contact the DYW West Highland team on: info@dywwesthighland.org / 01397 705765 Facebook / Twitter or call in and see us in the office at Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, 15 High Street, Fort William, PH33 6DH
For more information on cover letters, CVs and helpful hints and tips for preparing for employment, check out the My World of Work website.