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Job Search Tips: How To Write Cover Letters

Published: Friday 20th February 2015

A job search is a full-time job in itself with CVs, applications and cover letters to write. You spend hours neatly polishing and tailoring various versions of your CV, ready to apply for different roles you’re interested in. You perfect your LinkedIn profile to match your CV and ask colleagues and former managers to share recommendations and appraisals of you on LinkedIn. Then it’s on to the heart of the matter – searching through recruitment websites, such as Zoek, or those dedicated to a specific field such as education or health care, to find jobs to apply for.

woman typing on the keyboard, working

After carefully selecting an advertised job, based on the job specification, skills set, location and salary you start the application process filling in any online forms and uploading a CV tailored to the role. Finally, there it is. The request for cover letters and you’re stumped. What should you write in your cover letter; is less good than more or should you write pages and pages? Don’t worry, Zoek is on hand with superstar tips on how to write a cover letter, get the job and finish your job search with a great new role.

The most important point to consider when writing a cover letter is how the type of role you’re applying for influences the type of cover letter you should write. Different industries have different expectations and ‘best practice’ templates of what to include in your letter and how to structure them – best of all? These expectations and practices shift with time and are constantly updated.

We’ve compiled the best cover letter tips and strategies from across the web and distilled them for you in one easy to digest chunk. As there are several types of cover letter, depending on how and why you have structured your job search we’ve examined them all and put together a guide which should help anyone writing a cover letter.

Cover Letters – General Tips

woman working, typing on her laptop

● Across the web the consensus is that less is more. Aim for the equivalent of one page of A4. If you’re typing it up (as you probably will be) we would recommend typing your cover letter in a clear, easily readable, font and size. Generally a size of 10-12 is good, just make sure your letter still fits on one page. Good fonts to use are basics such as Arial, Times New Roman and Verdana.

● Spell check, spell check and spell check again. Don’t leave any grammatical mistakes in cover letters, it won’t do you any favours.

● Flesh out the bones of your CV. Pick out relevant experience, skills and qualities you could bring to the recruiters team and highlight how valuable an asset you would be. Also take time to discuss your knowledge of the company in general and the role specifically.

● If emailing your application and CV, make sure the cover letter is the main body of the email, not an attachment. Your cover letter should be clearly visible and the first thing a recruiter sees. It needs to grab and hold their attention, enticing them into reading your CV.

Types of Cover Letter

cover letter concept

There are five basic types of cover letter which you may need to write, depending on the nature of your job search.

Application Cover Letter

This is written addressing a specific job opening i.e one advertised on a recruitment website such as Zoek.

Referral Cover Letter

Written in response to a referral by an individual, e.g a colleague.

Letter of Interest
This is could also be called a speculative cover letter unlike the other cover letters. It would be written without addressing a specific role which has been advertised but rather is used to introduce yourself to a company you may wish to find vacancies with.

Networking Cover Letters

This type of cover letter would be addressed to a recruitment consultant and requests assistance with an overall job search. Include information on your skills and the types of role and salary you are looking for.

Value Proposition Letter
A briefer version of a cover letter which states your unique value as a candidate for a role.

Structure and Content

man writing cover letter, holding pen

A cover letter shouldn’t simply be a note to the effect of “please find my CV enclosed”. As discussed earlier it needs to flesh out your CV with relevant information. The standard template is four paragraphs and we will look at them further. Don’t write a large word when a short one will do, or add sentences for the sake of making your letter longer. Brevity does have its advantages, as author Hunter S. Thompson once said: “Not a wasted word. This has been a main point to my literary thinking all my life”.

Paragraph one
Address your cover letter directly to the recruiting manager and lead off with a strong opening sentence. A good example would look like this; ‘I would like to be considered for the role of …’ Also in the opening paragraph include information on where you found the job advertised, a recruitment consultant or anyone else who may have referred or recommended you to the role.

Paragraph two
Show exactly why you’re suitable for this role. Demonstrate how your experience and qualifications relate to the skills requested in the job description.

Paragraph three
Here’s where you get to show off a little. Emphasise what you can do for and bring to the company.

Paragraph four
Reiterate your interest in the company and role. Let the recruiting manager see why you’d be a great fit and indicate your availability to meet up for a face to face interview. Close the cover letter off with “Yours Sincerely” and your name.

Putting it all together
Remember a typed up cover letter using a clear, easy to read font is much better than something which a recruiting manager can’t make head or tail of. Be concise, informative and engaging. Once written, read your cover letter back and ask yourself, “Would I hire this person?”

If you’re on the lookout for your next big career step, head over to Zoek and search, match and apply for jobs across all industries.

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