How to Write a Winning Cover Letter

Rachel Tudor

Almost every job application requires a cover letter, so it’s really important to nail it and make a good impression! Cover letters are vital in shortlisting candidates so if you want to get a job, writing a good cover letter is a great place to begin!

There are certain things that you can do to make sure your cover letter is as good as it can possibly be - luckily for you, this post can guide you through that process.

First off, you might be wondering ‘What is a Cover Letter?’ or ‘Why do I have to write one?’. A cover letter is an opportunity to tell an employer why you are excited about working for that company, in that role, and why you’d be the best person for the job.

It’s different from your CV in that you can specifically address an employer and the role you’re applying for. You can also tailor your application and demonstrate just how suited a role is to you. Moreover, it's another method for employers to shortlist candidates as it provides more of an insight into who you are. Think of it a bit like your UCAS personal statement. It’s important to remember that, unless the job description has specifically requested you not to, you must always write a cover letter. Even if the application is via an online platform or email.

Get the formatting right.

As a general rule, the more simple the cover letter is, the better. Keeping it black and white and with no images ensures that the employer can pick out key information with no distractions like colour or difficult to read fonts. The employer will almost always be printing out your letter in black and white so optimise it for that.

It’s probably best to use a standard font (e.g. Times New Roman, Helvetica, or Arial) in a size 11-12. Don’t italicise or underline, instead, if you want to emphasise something, use bold. Remember that you should probably highlight your name and contact info - you can make this bold or increase the font size to 14-16. Make sure you structure your cover letter in clear paragraphs and use a spelling and grammar check before you send off your application.

It’s really easy to forget that this is also a letter! Remember to include your contact info and address in the top right hand corner, with the name of the employer and the company’s address on the left hand side. Also include the date! It’s equally important to remember to start your letter with Dear X and end with Yours sincerely/faithfully and a signature. If you want to see just how TalentPool would format a cover letter, we’ve included a template which you can find here.

Always save your Cover letter as a PDF before sending it off (File> Save As> PDF) to avoid any formatting issues occurring. Make sure you name it clearly – we suggest “Your Name_Cover Letter” to avoid any confusion.

You should also structure your letter properly.

Your cover letter should have a very clear structure so you can get your points across clearly. This also allows the employer to quickly scan your letter and pick out the key information. Your cover letter should be no more than one side of A4, with a length between 350-500 words.

Having a clear structure also makes sure you’ve included all the key content. Your letter should be roughly structured around 5 key areas:

  1. Introduction - Outlining that your CV is included, what role you’re applying for, and how you came across the role advertised. We also recommend including a brief sentence outlining your main points.
  2. Why you’d want to work for the company - This is your chance to demonstrate why, not just the role, but that company in particular. Address your employer - convey that you’ve researched the company and that working there would be something you genuinely want to do.
  3. Why that role - Again another great chance to show off how much you know about the position and what research you’ve done. Make it clear that working in that role is something that you’re passionate about and that it’s a role you think you could excel in. Employers want to hire someone who’d do a good job but ultimately they want employees that will fit in well with the rest of the team!
  4. Why you - The time to show why you’re the one to hire. What makes you different from other candidates? Why should they hire you over someone else? Don’t just repeat your CV - instead show you’ve understood the role by mentioning relevant skills and experience and go beyond what you’ve outlined in your CV. Why is it relevant? How will it help you in that role?
  5. Conclusion - Finish off by concluding that you’d be a valuable asset to the employer. Thank the employer and state when you’d be available for interview.

Finally, nailing the content.

If you’ve followed our structural advice above, then you should have covered all the main areas of content and written a great cover letter. We have a couple of final golden rules for nailing cover letter content though:

Make each cover letter unique.

Tailor your cover letter to a specific employer and role. It’s always obvious when you’re sending out generic letters to multiple employers! Show how important each application is to you by putting in the time and effort to research and write a unique letter.

Don’t write out a shorter form of your CV.

The employer already has that information. Instead, link what’s on your CV to the role and expand on the points you’ve made in your CV. What experience is on your CV that makes you perfect for that company or role? What do you want to tell your employer that’s not on your CV? Why is your experience relevant to that role? Really hammer home why you’d be perfect for that role - don’t just say what, say why and how!