A cover letter is your first opportunity to tell an employer why you are excited about the prospect of working for their company and why you think you'd be the best person for the job. The absolutely crucial point to take away here is that you must never use the same cover letter twice! The more tailored your cover letter, the higher your chances of getting invited to interview. Don't fool yourself, an employer can really tell if you haven't put enough time into researching their company.
Have a clear structure:
As a rule, your cover letter should be made up of 5 clear paragraphs:
Make it clear why you would like to apply to this particular company:
Take a couple of sentences to specifically address why you have applied to this company over other possible organisations. Not just why that job but why that company. Employers want to hire the person that's not only best for the job, but also the person who actually wants to be there over anywhere else. Do your research as it will be very obvious if you haven't googled the company - moreover if you are actually interested in the job opportunity you should be wanting to find out as much as possible anyway! Mention their 'new technological advancement in...' or their 'industry changing techniques...' or even just how much you love using their product. A little enthusiasm goes a long way here.
Emphasise why you are the best person for the job:
This is absolutely crucial to convey in your cover letter - why should they pick you over all the other talented applicants? Do you have experience of programmes used in the industry? Have you picked up sales talent they could use? If there's something in particular that you can do for them your CV is the place to mention it but your cover letter is where you should expand on it. Keep in mind that you are trying to sell your potential and show your eagerness to learn.
Don't just repeat the same points you've made in your CV:
Tell the employer something they don't know already! Your cover letter is the place to expand on the relevant experience and skills you have in greater detail. Demonstrate how your experience, skills and knowledge relate to the job posting and tell them what you can bring to the table. Remember to give evidence for all your claims.
Address your cover letter to the right person:
Your cover letter should ideally be addressed to a specific individual. Spend some time researching this as you do not want your cover letter to end up with the wrong person. Also double-check the spelling of their name as this is a common and embarrassing mistake. If you cannot find the name of an appropriate individual to address it to, begin your letter with "Dear Sir/Madam". Remember to also include their address in the cover letter.
Dedicate enough time to writing your cover letter and it will pay off. Remember, it's much better to spend a few hours on a specific cover letter tailored to the role than to send off a generic cover letter to a handful of companies. Take a look at our master cover letter template to make sure you're on the right track.