We’ve put together a list of cover letter tips, including:
Cover letter writing tips
Here are 10 expert tips about how to write a cover letter:
1. Make a new cover letter for every application
Sending one generic cover letter for all your applications doesn’t help you stand out.
Employers want to see that you’ve put some thought into your application. So create a new cover letter that addresses the specific requirements in the job description for every position you apply for.
2. Research your target company
To get information for your cover letter, research the company. Your research should answer the following questions:
- What are the company’s goals?
- What does the job involve?
- What kind of candidate is the company seeking?
- How do you fit the company’s culture?
3. Read cover letter samples for inspiration
4. Find the proper tone
Your cover letter’s tone depends on your industry and experience level:
- Creatives: Use a playful, upbeat tone to express your creativity
- Traditional professionals: Write in a straightforward, serious style to show your professionalism
- Educators: Be eloquent, articulate, and concise to demonstrate your mastery of communication
- Experienced applicants: Use powerful and clear language to show your leadership abilities
- Inexperienced candidates: Focus on your relevant training and skills, emphasising how your career goals match the company’s expectations for your target position
5. Craft a catchy opening paragraph
Employers usually decide within a few sentences whether to skip over your cover letter or continue reading it. Therefore, you’ve got to learn how to start your cover letter off strong.
To determine what will best catch the reader’s attention, consider your audience:
- If the company culture is laid-back, use tasteful humour or passion to show your personality
- If the company culture is formal, open by describing how your experience and skills will benefit the employer or talk about your top accomplishments
Here’s an example of a catchy opening paragraph for a laid-back company:
If you’re like most Brits, you probably saw the Asda zombie commercial that aired during the Premier League final this year. I’m the person who pitched the idea for that advert — and that’s just one of the many reasons why I’m certain I’d enhance your creative team.
Here’s an example of a catchy opening paragraph for a formal company:
As the sales manager for Xtreme Ltd., I’ve created and implemented strategies that have increased revenue by £50,000 and grown our clientele by 23% within 2 years. I’d like to replicate this success at BuyGoods Ltd.
6. Remember to highlight your transferable skills
In addition to technical skills, employers look for candidates with transferable skills that fit into their company culture.
Impressive transferable skills include:
- research and analytical skills
- time management
7. Give your skills and achievements context
Rather than just listing your daily responsibilities at your previous job, use hard numbers and examples to give the recruiter a better understanding of your skills and achievements.
Here are two examples of bad cover letter statements that instead jump off the page when context is added:
- Helped students score higher in their A-Levels to increase their prospects
- Developed and implemented a Chemistry curriculum that produced a 97% A-Level pass rate for 2 consecutive years
- Improved our website ranking on Google’s search engine results page (SERP)
- Created content strategies that reduced our bounce rate by 42% and kept our website at number 1 on Google’s search engine results page (SERP) for 6 consecutive months
8. Don’t use cliches
Cover letter cliches don’t work because:
- they’re vague and don’t show the recruiter what makes you unique
- the recruiter can misinterpret them as a disguise for your lack of experience
- I think outside the box
- I’m solution-driven
- I’m detail-oriented
- I’m a go-getter
- I think I’m a perfect fit for this job
- I’m highly motivated
- I work well under pressure
The above phrases don’t demonstrate how you’ve applied your skills. Instead, use relevant examples to display your best traits.
9. Close with a call to action
Ending your cover letter by requesting an interview:
- shows the recruiter you’re passionate, committed, and ready for the next phase
- indicates you can take initiative
- demonstrates confidence and assertiveness — qualities employers value
Also, your call to action should include your contact information so the employer doesn’t have to search for it.
Here’s an example of how to end a cover letter with a strong call to action:
If you’d like to know more about my skills and achievements, please contact me at [email protected] or on 07412 345 678.
Spelling, punctuation, grammar, and formatting mistakes make you appear sloppy. To avoid embarrassing errors:
- read your cover letter out loud to find mistakes you missed before
- ask a friend to proofread
- edit to make sure that your proofreader didn’t make new mistakes
- use online programs like Grammarly, Hemingway App, and ProWritingAid to spot errors and improve your writing’s quality (remember to switch these tools to British English)
Cover letter formatting tips
Your cover letter’s format is as important as its written content. Recruiters can easily find relevant details in your cover letter when it’s properly structured.
Here are some top tips for formatting your cover letter:
11. Use one page only
Your cover letter should have 250–450 words spread across 3–4 paragraphs and fit on one page. Anything more than that makes your cover letter difficult to read.
The harder your cover letter is to read, the more likely the employer puts your application in the bin.
12. Choose an easy-to-read font
The font you choose for your cover letter should be:
- easy to read
- between 10.5 and 12 pts
The best fonts for CVs — such as Cambria, Arial, Calibri, Georgia, and Times New Roman — are also perfect for writing cover letters.
13. Apply standard margins and line spacing
Optimise your covering letter by using UK-standard margins and line spacing:
- Margins: 1.27–2.5 cm
- Line spacing: 1–1.5 spaces
If you apply non-standard margins and spacing, your cover letter will either appear too empty or overstuffed with text. Either way, you’ll come off as unprofessional to your target employer.
14. Feature your name in a cover letter header
Make your cover letter stand out by putting your name and contact information in a cover letter header. Here’s how to format your header:
- Write your name in a large, bold font
- Put your contact information directly under your name in a smaller font
- Write each element of your contact information on a new line using single-line spacing, or write them on a single line separated by vertical bars or slashes
- Centre- or right-align your header
- Write the date on the first line under your header in the DD/MM/YY format (for example, 5 January 2021)
Quality cover letter templates have preformatted headers that will help you save time. Some templates even include a splash of colour in their headers to attract the employer’s attention.
15. Left-align the employer’s contact information
Format the employer’s contact information as you would if you were writing it on an envelope. Write your contact’s name, company address, phone number, and email address in a left-aligned, single-spaced list.
16. Start with a professional greeting
Your cover letter’s greeting is a great place to show that you’ve done your research and tailored your application to the position. If you know the contact person by name, use:
Dear [Mr/Ms/Mx] [Contact Person’s Surname],
Here’s how to address a cover letter if you can’t find the contact person’s name:
Dear [Company or Department Name],
17. Include a bulleted list
Use bullet points to highlight your qualifications without taking up too much space. Bullets draw the recruiter’s eyes and make your cover letter easy for the employer to quickly scan to see if you’re a good fit for the role.
18. Pick an appropriate sign-off
The correct ways to sign off your cover letter are:
- ‘Yours sincerely,’ if you’ve addressed the contact person by name
- ‘Yours faithfully,’ if you addressed a job position or department in your greeting
19. Sign your name
If you’re sending a digital copy of your cover letter, press ‘Enter’ twice to create a line of empty space after your sign-off, and then type your name.
When you send your cover letter by mail or submit it in person, leave 3–4 lines after your sign-off before typing your name. Sign your name in the resulting blank space.