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How to write an effective cover letter

Your cover letter – like your resume – is one of the most important factors in determining whether you secure an interview for the job you want. You need to make sure your covering letter works hard for you, demonstrating your communication skills and suitability for the role.

Here are our tips to help you write a cover letter that sets you - and your job application – apart.

What should your cover letter cover?

As a bare minimum, a good cover letter should:

  • State why you are writing, making it clear you have written the letter for a specific role
  • Include a brief introduction about you
  • Focus attention on your relevant experience, skills and qualifications
  • Include your contact details

You might also consider highlighting:

  • How you meet the most important selection criteria for the role
  • Real-world examples (work roles, projects, community work, voluntary work, sports achievements etc) that demonstrate your suitability for the job

Style and tone of voice

Your cover letter represents you – it’s often your first point of contact with a prospective employer – so make sure it is professional. Check for typos, then check again. Keep the style professional, without being florid or cold – it’s fine to inject some of your personality, but don’t go too far.

  • Use plain business English (avoid abbreviations, jargon and slang)
  • Use short concise sentences (avoid chunky paragraphs)
  • Use a common-sense structure and focus on one main idea per paragraph

Get off to a good start by ending on a positive

You want the person reading your letter to be in a positive frame of mind when they move from your cover letter to your resume and application.

Keep the tone and content of your letter positive throughout – especially towards the end, in your sign-off, when you should thank the employer for their time.

Format and style

Your cover letter doesn’t have to be professionally designed or set, but it should look professional – clean, neat and easy to scan and digest. We suggest keeping:

  • Your cover letter to a single side of A4
  • Good margins around the edge of your letter – narrow margins make letters look ugly
  • Plenty of white space between paragraphs

If you get your cover letter and resume right, you stand a great chance of getting that all-important interview. Read our job interview advice and tips, and make sure your digital reputation is in order.

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