Think a cover letter isn't that important or relevant any more? Think again…
Picture the scene. A recruiter is looking to find candidates for a managerial position in retail. A lot of the CVs they receive are all well and good but nothing really sets them apart. The recruiter reaches for the cover letters. Some are sloppy, others have spelling mistakes, but there are one or two where it's obvious that the candidate has taken the time and effort to highlight their skills to match the job description. These are the candidates that are put forward for an interview.
So it's clear a high impact cover letter can make all the difference. But how to approach this part of the job application process? You might remember being taught how to write a letter at school, but probably haven't written one since… apart from a thank you letter to your aunt at Christmas.
Not to worry. We have the answers on how to write an impactful cover letter, whatever stage of your career you find yourself at. Also included below are cover letter examples covering a range of seniority. So let's explore further…
What is the purpose of a cover letter?
In simple terms, it's main purpose is to set the tone of the application and lead potential employers to reaching for your CV. It's the perfect opportunity to show off by highlighting your specific skills that relate to the role, while being able to express yourself in a more personal way than you can on a CV.
If your cover letter is littered with mistakes or obviously not tailored to the particular position you're applying for, then there's a distinct possibility that your application could end up in the bin.
So, can a cover letter actually impact an employer's decision on whether to hire you or not? Most certainly. A survey from Cultivated Culture in 2020 showed that 53% of employers preferred those candidates that attached cover letters with their CVs. It also stated that 47% of recruiters liked candidates sending cover letters with their applications because it showed motivation.
What to include in your cover letter
Apart from the obvious, such as your name and contact details - which should mirror how they're set out in your CV - there are a few absolute musts that need to be included when compiling a high impact cover letter.
Find out who to address the letter to, as those letters that reach the decision-maker usually have a higher chance of getting a positive result.
You want the reader to be totally engaged right from the start, so make it clear that you understand the job specifications. Stipulate why you're the best candidate for the role and why you're so keen to grab this opportunity and embrace this new position. Be positive and enthusiastic, whilst simultaneously explaining how your attributes perfectly match the role as well as the company culture. For a more detailed overview, check out the latest cover letter advice.
Explain your motivations for looking for a new job. Have you recently secured new qualifications that you want to make use of? Is it a change of circumstances that's pushing you? Or are you keen to take on more responsibility or challenge? Detailing this within the letter will not only make it clear why you're looking for a new role, but can also add value by showing off yet more acquired skills.
Avoid mistakes by reading and re-reading your cover letter before sending it, so that there are no errors or grammatical no-nos. Getting a friend or family member to read it through can also be useful, as they might spot something you haven't seen.
Writing an impactful cover letter
Make sure your letter stands out for the right reasons by sticking to these guidelines:
Tailor your cover letter to each role, which means that no two letters you send out should be the same. It might help to physically highlight key skills from the job description, then match your experience to these when it comes to compiling the letter
Show you've taken the time and effort to find out about the company you're applying to by mentioning something you've found out from, say, the company website, that is relevant to the position
You are the product you're trying to sell, so go for it - establish what you have to offer and add credibility by backing this up with viable examples
Your cover letter is not a substitute for your CV - it should act as an introduction - so keep it brief. No more than a page long and around 300 words for the main content is ideal
Tips on building a high impact cover letter
Come up with an attention-grabbing opening line to hook the reader in
Structure the letter in a logical way, so that the reader's attention is captured and their interest is maintained throughout
Get your message across clearly and concisely
Show you're a good fit for the company
Direct the reader to your CV by incorporating a compelling reason to refer to it
Finish off with a strong, positive closing paragraph that will make the reader want to reach for the phone or your email address to contact you
Cover letter examples
The cover letter examples below provide guidance on how to make an impact. They include a recent graduate example, a middle management cover letter, and one for top professionals.Go for it!
Your cover letter is the first thing a potential employer will read, so make it count!
If you fancy a professionally written cover letter for a reasonable fee, TopCV offers a variety of packages where the cover letter is included as part of the service. Check out our services!