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6 Top Tips for a Standout Cover Letter

CVsGraduate JobsTips and Advice

When you apply for a job, you will likely be asked to write a cover letter. This letter is the first chance your potential employer will get to hear from you in your own words, away from the formulaic structure of a CV. This means you need to make the most of it and use it as an opportunity to really sell yourself; it can give you the edge over someone else with similar qualifications getting hired. Here are my 6 top tips for a standout cover letter!


1. Don’t just repeat your CV

Your CV has your qualifications on it, and assumedly you’d be qualified for the job you are applying for, so don’t just repeat the same information twice. This doesn’t mean you can’t talk about them, but you should be choosing what aspects of your CV are most applicable to the job description and explaining why they give you the skills to do the job well. Use the cover letter to back up your skills on your CV with specific examples as real evidence that you are a good fit for the job.

2. Be specific

An ironically vague piece of advice - but you want to be very specific in showing that your skills match the job description the employer has provided. You’ve probably done loads of great things, but try and first consider if they are relevant to the role before writing about them. Don’t be afraid to use the exact wording in the job description. If they say they need someone hard working with good time management, draw attention to one aspect of your CV and explain how this gave you these skills.

3. Show your interest in the employer

You should show the employer you are genuinely interested in the company, as well as the role. Research the employer. What are their company values like? What aspects of the role and employer really make you want to work for and with them? A letter that could have been sent off with any job application, to any company, means it is unlikely to be well received.

4. Write formally

This might seem obvious, but it is worth remembering! You can still show character and personality whilst still asserting a professional tone. You should begin with Dear [Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Dr] and sign off respectfully with something like ‘Kind regards’ or, ‘Best wishes’. If you really can’t find the name of the contact your cover letter is addressed to, don’t be afraid to put ‘Sir/Madam’ or ‘Hiring manager’.

5. Proof read

Proof read. And again. And then get someone else to proof read it for you, before you proof read it again. Even one typo can make a whole letter seem sloppy. How can they believe that you have great attention to detail or good written skills if there are errors in your first point of contact with them? We’re all human and they happen to all of us, but try and catch them before sending off your application and cover letter to give them a squeaky clean first impression.

6. Don’t write too much!

Try and see your cover letter as a trailer for a film! You want to give your employer a concise idea as to why you would be best suited for the job, but just enough so they want to call you in for an interview! Most recommendations suggest a few paragraphs is the ideal length for a cover letter, and definitely no longer than one side of A4. If it is too long, it might not get read, and that is definitely not what you want. Ultimately, you want to show your best side in a cover letter. You want the company to know you are interested and them, as it will make them more interested in you. Use the job description and its wording as a guide for what to include, as whatever is in that description is what your employee is looking to find the applications they read. Good luck!

In the midst of the dreaded graduate job hunt? We have some more articles which will make your life a bit easier. Check out Accepting a Job Offer: Things to Consider8 Interview Questions that Catch Graduates Out and Graduate Video Interviews Guide: Dos and Don'ts 

GRB Blog Author and Student - Beth O Brien

Beth is an English Literature student at the University of Birmingham. In her spare time she enjoys reading, writing, and travelling. She is about to spend a year abroad in Boston doing all three! 

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