When applying for a job the hiring business may ask for a cover letter to accompany your CV. A cover letter is a one page introductory document which provides a prospective employer with your relevant skills, qualifications, and experience in relation to a specific position. A cover letter is also an opportunity for you to set yourself apart from other candidates, and show what you can offer to the business.
Why do I need to write one?
Although used alongside a CV, it is important that you understand the difference between a CV and a cover letter, before setting out to write one. Whereas a CV is a broad, factual and detailed view of your experience and qualifications, a cover letter can be shorter, more personal, and much more specific. You should use it to sell your story to the business and to begin building rapport with the hiring manager. Your cover letter is an opportunity to add any details that you may not be able to add to your CV, provide some context as to why you are applying for the role, and more importantly why you think you are a good fit!
How should it look?
A cover letter should be no longer than one page and will usually be split into the following paragraphs:
Opening Paragraph - how did you find out about the job?
Middle Paragraph - what are you relevant skills, qualifications and experiences to this specific role? What could you offer this business?
Closing Paragraph - why do you want to join the business in this role? (include your availability in this section)
Hiring managers are busy, with several candidates applying for each position. They may only have time to scan over your cover letter to gain an understanding of who you are and what you can offer, without having a chance to dive into your CV. Make your letter easy to read with direct concise language and clear formatting, and start with a powerful opening paragraph to capture the managers attention.
Formatting tip: try to make your cover letter single-spaced, with a larger space between each paragraph. Save you letter as a word or PDF, to ensure it parses any Applicant Tracking System (ATS) the employer may be using to sift through candidates.
When to send it?
Usually an employer will explicitly ask for a cover letter to be submitted with your CV when you apply. If it is not made clear, then it can be a good idea to send a cover letter anyway, to sell your personal brand and form a connection with the employer. (NOTE: If the job application process doesn't require a CV, and only an application form is required, you probably don't need to submit a cover letter)
For more jobseekers advice check out our Looking for Work page!