• By Check-a-Salary
  • Posted Sunday 08 th September 2019

Cover letter structure: 6 essential steps

Writing about yourself can be tough, but it’s essential during a job search. Your CV is where you explain your job history, skills and qualifications, but your cover letter gives you room to elaborate on the important details, and explain why you’re the ideal person for the job. 

Why write a cover letter?

  • Introduce yourself.
  • Build rapport with the recruiter.
  • Encourage the recruiter to invite you to an interview.

Formatting and structuring your cover letter is just as important as what you write in it. This is how to create a cover letter that does the job and does it well:

1. Put it in the main body of your email

Your cover letter should be written in the body of your email, or filled directly into the relevant field of an application form. If you attach it as a separate document, there’s the risk of the file going unopened, or even corrupting (these things happen!).

Make your introduction easy, immediate, and accessible.

2. Start with an introduction

Introduce yourself to the recruiter, or whoever you’re addressing, with a simple “Hi <>”. Don’t worry about sounding too informal, it’s better to be human and friendly. You are speaking to another human, after all!

Follow up with a friendly greeting like “Hope you’re well” or “Hope you’re having a good week”. Recruiters are looking for someone who’ll get on well with the existing team, as well as someone qualified, so a warm introduction will go down well.

3. Explain what you’re applying for and where from

Get to the point quickly. Even if it feels like stating the obvious, remind the reader what role you’re applying for and where you saw it. The busier the recruiter, the more likely it is they’ll be handling a few different job roles.

A bit of clarification will make sure your cover letter goes on the right pile or in the right folder!

4. Tell them who you are and why they should hire you

Your cover letter should be full of value and relevant information. Go back to the original job description and pick out what they’re looking for in a candidate. Your cover letter should tick those ‘wish list’ qualities off and demonstrate simply why you’d be the ideal fit.

  • Your current role. How long you’ve been in it, a brief description of your responsibilities, and the main skills you’ve developed.
  • Which stakeholders you work with regularly. Show them how comfortably you communicate and collaborate with different people.
  • Management experience. If the role is more senior than your current role, you’ll need to show you’re ready for that step up.
  • Why you’re ready for this new role. More responsibility? Develop your skillset? Work in a slightly different sector? Embracing a new challenge?

5. Keep it brief

Your cover letter should be 3-6 sentences long, and ideally no more. It doesn’t seem like much, but with some careful editing you can still show off all the essentials.

It’s tempting to want to give the recruiter as much information as possible, but they’re short on time and likely to skim-read your cover letter. Don’t overwhelm them with long paragraphs - they need to be able to pick out the important stuff and keywords.

Re-read a few times and cut out non-essentials. Always look for simpler ways to phrase things.

Helpful tip! Break your cover letter up into distinct, short paragraphs. Space helps your reader digest the content.

6. Sign off politely and professionally

You opened politely, time to close politely too! Leave the reader with positive feelings and sign off with a simple “Kind regards” or “Look forward to hearing from you”. It’s professional and genuine.

Helpful tip! Create an email signature that includes your phone number, email address, and any other relevant contact info. If you’re in a creative industry, you could also add a link to your online portfolio. It makes it much easier for the recruiter to contact you without having to open up attachments.

Don’t fear the blank page! Your cover letter is an opportunity to introduce yourself in the best light, and tell the recruiter exactly why you’d be a brilliant fit for the role. Tick off the structural essentials and you’ll be much more likely to make an impression.

Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV – he is a former recruitment consultant and contributes careers advice to websites like Business Insider, The Guardian and FastCompany.


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