To get a great UK job in 2023, you need to know how to write a cover letter that immediately stands out and tells employers why you should be selected for a job interview.
Employers look for several things when reviewing applications, so knowing exactly what to include in a cover letter is vital to impressing them and increasing your chances of moving forward in the job process.
What should a cover letter include?
Here’s what a cover letter should include when using appropriate UK cover letter formatting standards:
What to put in a cover letter
Structuring your cover letter requires laying it out in a visually appealing format. Here’s what to put in each section of your cover letter:
1. Your name and contact information
Maximise the top of your cover letter by placing your name and contact information in an eye-catching cover letter header.
Some cover letter templates also let you add coloured backgrounds or text to make the header bolder.
Some important details to include in your cover letter header are:
- your first name and surname (middle names are optional)
- a phone number you can be reached at
- a professional email address
- your home address
You can also add links to relevant websites like your LinkedIn profile, professional blog (for writers), or portfolio (for designers and visual artists).
Here’s an example of what should be in a cover letter header:
2. Today’s date
Writing a date on your cover letter is optional because you’ll usually submit it online and your document will automatically be time stamped.
However, if you decide to add a date to your cover letter, right-align it and write it in the dd/mm/yyyy format (for example, 24 March 2021 or 24/03/2021).
3. The contact person’s name and company contact information
Left-align the company’s contact person’s name. If you don’t know who to address your cover letter to, use a job title or company department like ‘Dear Marketing Department’.
Below the name, write the company’s address, email address, and phone number.
Format the address like you would if you were writing it on an envelope, like so:
Contact Person’s Name
123 Street Name
Open your cover letter with a greeting (also known as a salutation).
The standard greeting format is ‘Dear Mr/Ms/Mx [Contact Person’s Surname],’. ‘Mr’ and ‘Ms’ are neutral titles that don’t show marital status. If you’re unsure of the contact person’s gender, use the gender-neutral ‘Mx’.
However, if you don’t have a contact person’s name, use their position title or address the department you’re applying to instead.
5. Opening paragraph
Your opening paragraph should grab the employer’s attention and keep it. A basic opening paragraph includes the job title, where you saw the job opening, and why you’re applying.
Unsure how to get the reviewer’s attention? Here are several strategies to start a cover letter:
- show your passion for the type of work you’d be doing
- impress the employer by highlighting results from your research
- emphasise your top achievements by providing specific examples and data for context
- charm them with humour (but don’t say something corny or risqué)
- drop the name of a company reference — but get their permission first
Have a look at this example of a cover letter opening paragraph:
6. Body paragraphs
After setting the tone with your opening paragraph, use the body of your cover letter to discuss your previous work experience and achievements in depth.
Describe your key CV skills and how the company can benefit from them so employers can see how you’d fit into the position.
Additionally, don’t forget to include any information that sets you apart from other candidates.
For example, if you’re a fresh graduate, include relevant coursework or your degree classification (but only if it’s impressive).
Any information you include must be tailored to the job you’re applying for. Also, you can use bullet points to make your qualifications stand out.
This is an example of how to write and format your cover letter’s body paragraphs:
7. Closing paragraph
End your cover letter by thanking your contact person for taking the time to read your application. Then, end by politely requesting an interview (don’t forget to add your availability).
Finally, repeat the same email address and phone number you added at the top of your cover letter so the reviewer doesn’t have to search for them.
Sign off on a strong note with the right phrase to convey that you’re a professional applicant. The standard sign-off for a well-written cover letter is:
- ‘Yours sincerely,’ if you addressed the contact person by name in your greeting
- ‘Yours faithfully,’ if you addressed a generic job title or department name
Finally, add your signature at the bottom. If you’re sending your cover letter by email, leave a blank line after your sign-off, and then type your name.
If you’re printing and posting your cover letter, leave 3–4 lines after your sign-off before typing your name. After you print your letter, put your handwritten signature in the gap.
Here’s an example of how to end an email cover letter:
What to write in a cover letter
Before you write your cover letter, research the company and the role you’re applying for. This research gives you insight into how to tailor your cover letter to meet the company’s requirements.
Questions you can ask to guide your research include:
- what kind of company is it?
- what goals does the company have?
- what does the role involve?
- what are the skills required to perform well in that role?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can write your cover letter.
Here are four ideas for what to say in your cover letter to impress recruiters:
1. Describe why you want the job
Tell the employer your reason for applying so they know straight away what to expect from you.
For example, show how your passion for the type of work you’re targeting makes you the best fit for the role. However, don’t just write about how passionate you are and leave it at that.
Always write with the employer’s perspective in mind. Instead of focusing on what you’d gain from working with them, emphasise the benefits they’d get from employing you.
Remember to impress the employer by explaining how your motivation and skills align with the company’s goals. Give them proof with hard numbers and specific examples of your achievements.
This is an example of how to state your passion in your cover letter paragraph:
I’ve always loved the power that comes from creating an appealing reality with just words. I’ve applied that passion in my writing career to craft 100+ unique articles that have helped my company increase its website’s organic traffic from Google searches by 25%. I’d love to use my skills as a Content Writer for [Company Name].
If you’re looking for a new challenge, mention it in your cover letter paragraph, like so:
I understand that [Company Name] is on the rise and planning to launch several new projects in the coming months. I’m looking for a challenging position in which I can be a part of your growth process and contribute my expertise towards making these projects a success.
Here’s an example to show you’re interested in career advancement opportunities:
[Company Name] has consistently appeared on the list of the best places to work. One reason it’s such a great workplace is because your company encourages career growth and advancement through employee training, education, and other resources. I want to join a company that’ll help me improve my already stellar skills and expertise, so we can consistently produce great work together.
If you respect a company’s goals or values, let them know in an example like this:
I find [Company Name]’s commitment to making great products and providing excellent customer service impressive. In the last year alone, you’ve won numerous awards for your cutting-edge technology solutions. Your dedication to your customers resonates with me. I’d love to contribute my experience with developing new IT products to a company that prioritises quality.
2. Prove you’re a long-term fit
A recent study showed that 38% of employees are looking to change roles within the next 12 months. Such frequent turnover is expensive for companies, so they prioritise applicants who can remain committed to the company for a long time.
So use the long-term value you can bring to the company to prove that you’re a good fit for the job. Simply match your skills and qualifications to the job requirements, and indicate that you’re seeking a role that offers longevity.
Here’s an example of how to prove that you’re a long-term fit for the role:
I’m excited about the innovations your company has shown in your projects recently. I’ve been looking to work long-term for a dynamic organisation that provides creative solutions, and your company fits that description. Your [Position Name] role is a perfect fit for my skills and experience and would give me the chance to grow professionally while contributing to your growth.
3. Show you’ve researched the company
Include details from your research of the company to show the employer that you:
- have a genuine interest in the job opening
- take initiative
- possess research skills
- wrote your cover letter for a specific role
- value initiative and preparation
For instance, show how your career goals align with the company’s principles, or how your skill set could build on some of the company’s wins or solve its challenges.
Below is an example of how to use your research results to impress the employer:
The feeding programme [Company Name] provides for the homeless people in our community is inspiring. I want to work with an organisation dedicated to giving back to the community, and your mission perfectly matches my goal.
4. Use keywords from the job advert
Most companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen applicants. To get your application through the ATS, include keywords from the job advert.
The keywords companies put in their job descriptions include skills, years of experience requirements, and industry credentials or knowledge.
Here’s an example of a customer service job description with keywords underlined:
And here’s an example of an opening paragraph of a cover letter for the above job that includes relevant keywords:
Finally, don’t forget to also add job-relevant keywords when you write your CV.
Including keywords in both your cover letter and CV shows employers you’ve put thought and effort into creating a balanced application.
More cover letter resources
Here are more resources to help you determine what should be in a cover letter for a UK job: