To get a great UK job in 2021, you need to know how to write a cover letter that makes a case for why you should be selected for a job interview.
An employer looks for several things when reviewing applications, so knowing exactly what to include in a cover letter is vital so you can give them what they want.
Here’s what to include to follow the UK cover letter format conventions and highlight your relevant experience:
- your name and contact information
- today’s date
- the contact person’s name and company contact information
- opening paragraph
- body paragraphs
- closing paragraph
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 it 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 that will make you a standout applicant:
1. Say why you want the job
Tell the employer your reason for applying. 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.
Impress the employer by showing them how your passion and skills align with the company’s goals. Give them proof with hard numbers and specific examples of your achievements.
Here’s an example of how to use your passion to say why you want the job:
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 over 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].
Other reasons for wanting the job:
- 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.
- Seeking a new challenge
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.
- Admiration for the company
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 1 out of every 3 new employees quits their job after 90 days. Such frequent turnover is expensive for companies, so they prioritise applicants who can remain committed to the company for a long time.
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
- appreciate 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.
Here’s 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:
We’re looking for Customer Service Representatives for our London office. This role is for people who want to provide our clients with the excellent customer service they require. You’ll be the first contact for answering billing questions and providing recommendations to our customers.
Qualifications and skills include:
- Experience providing excellent customer service
- Exceptional computer skills
- Clear verbal and written communication skills
- Ability to work comfortably in a fast-paced, high-volume call center environment
- Minimum of GCSE or equivalent; university degree or currently pursuing preferred
And here’s an example of an opening paragraph of a cover letter for the above job that includes relevant keywords:
I’ve been working as a Customer Service Representative at Bamboo Co. for 4+ years, and in that time I’ve developed clear verbal and written communication skills and computer skills that have improved my problem-solving abilities. My adaptability and ability to multitask makes it easy for me to work in a fast-paced environment. I’m confident that I’ll be a good fit at your company.
How to structure your cover letter
In addition to knowing what to put in a cover letter, you also need to lay it out in a visually appealing format. Here’s how to format 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-grabbing header. Some cover letter templates 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 (don’t use your work number)
- a professional email address
- your home address
You can also add links to relevant websites like your LinkedIn profile, blog (writers), or portfolio (designers and visual artists).
Here’s an example that shows 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 with an automatic date and time stamp. 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 have a name, use a job title or company 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:
Contact Person’s Name
55 Street Name
07555 555 555
Open your cover letter with a greeting. 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:
- 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, providing specific examples and data for context
- charm them with humour (but don’t say something corny or risque)
- drop the name of a company reference — but get their permission first
6. Body paragraphs
After setting the tone with your opening paragraph, seal the deal with the body of your cover letter. Describe your skills and how the company can benefit from them. Include any information that sets you apart from other candidates.
For example, if you’re a fresh graduate, include relevant coursework or the grades received (but only if they’re impressive).
Any information you include must be tailored to the job you’re applying for. Also, you can use bullet points to make your best selling points stand out.
Here’s an example of how to write and format your cover letter’s body paragraphs:
7. Closing paragraph
Begin your cover letter’s closing paragraph 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. 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 mailing 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 emailed cover letter:
More cover letter resources
Here are more resources to help you determine what should be in a cover letter for a UK job: