How to write a great cover letter -Why cover letters are important in the hiring process

What is a Cover Letter For?

Before I get into how to write a great cover letter, it’s important to understand why you might need to have one. 

Before post, telephone or anything digital even existed, people carried letters of introduction with them from people of repute in their location when they travelled looking for employment in another area. These letters would be written by someone like a Judge, Member of Parliament or similar, attesting to the character and suitability for employment of the individual. 

The modern-day cover letter is an extension of that thought process, i.e., it should give the reader a reason or confidence that the person supplying the letter is trustworthy and a good fit for employment in their organisation. 

How Do You Write a Great, Simple Cover Letter?

The reason for a cover letter in today’s market is to supplement the CV and highlight specifically the reasons why an applicant is a great fit for the role in question. The information contained in the CV is more generic and designed to cover more bases. 

The goal of the letter is therefore to get you interviewed through providing more information that will help an employer to choose you for an interview and not someone else. 

Best Practices in 2024
  • Use a standard letter format including your reply address, mobile number and email address at the top of the letter. 
  • Make sure that the letter is dated. 
  • Include the job reference if appropriate
  • Use correct salutation: For example, Dear Sir or Madam, Dear Henry, Jessie, Dr. Harman, etc. 
  • One page outperforms 2 or more pages
  • No more than 500 words of A4 (on average)
  • Clear font such as Calibri or Arial and no less than 10-point formatting. 
Read The Job Description/Person Specification Carry out Research

If you don’t understand exactly what an employer is looking for, then how can you possibly impress them?  Understand as best as you can what the employer is looking for. 

What is their problem? 

Ask yourself how you can be the answer to the problem that they have. No employer employs anyone unless they have a problem. If they could solve their problem without employing anyone, then they would. No-one spends cash employing people for the sake of it. 

That problem may be that they can’t serve customers without someone to serve them, deliver goods, make things, resolve complaints, deliver projects, make money or a thousand different reasons. The bottom line – they have a problem and you need to be the solution to that problem. 

Reading the job and person specification should give you the insight you need to best sell yourself in the letter. I know and I’m sorry, the Cover Letter is a sales document and you definitely need to sell yourself. If the information you need isn’t in the advertisement, then research the company. Look at news, the company website, reference sites such as Glass Door that provides information from previous and current employees, Google reviews and the like. 

Actually Writing the Letter

You need to create four or five killer paragraphs which will form the body content of your letter. 

Paragraph 1 – Introduction and Hook. Your first couple of lines need to highlight the purpose of your letter. For example, I’m writing to apply for the position of XXX and attach my CV for your consideration. Basic, simple and tells the reader that they’re reading the right letter. The balance of the first paragraph should explain in 2 or 3 sentences exactly why they should be talking to you. 

Think elevator pitch, speed networking or speed dating. The goal of the first paragraph is your best chance of making a positive first impression. Think of reasons why someone hiring for the role in question would want to talk to you. Focus on solutions that you can bring and include relevant skills and experience, Use the research that you have done and explain exactly how you are the ideal fit for the role in question. Be professional and enthusiastic in tone but not gushing. Explain why you are applying. It could be that you are looking for promotion, have just been made redundant or moving to a new area. 

Paragraph 2 – Continue the theme and focus on your most recent or most relevant experience. Your most recent role will in many cases be the most relevant but one size doesn’t fit all. This is the point in the letter where you will hammer home your advantage, Focus on what you have achieved and delivered in prior position and relate those achievements to the job description and person specification. Three or four sentences highlighting quantifiable achievements ion your career and personal life will make a very positive impression at this point. 

Paragraph 3  – Continue the process and create three or four more sentences, highlighting more accomplishments, possibly focussing more on the person specification than the job description depending on what you have written in the prior paragraph. 

Paragraph 4 – Highlight your skills, qualifications, technical or other knowledge. Bring attention at this point to academic or professional qualifications that may be relevant to the role in question. Don’t just list off the qualifications, take time to explain exactly how the hard work that you have done in the past will help to make a contribution and solve their problems. If you don’t have qualifications (first prize) in an area but do have experience, then use that. Don’t simply state that you can use word processing packages for example, explain succinctly how you used that technology or skill and what benefits that actually delivered for the customer, employer or someone else. 

Paragraph 5 – Highlight ethics, attitude and shared values. If you’ve done your research properly, you’ll have a pretty good idea about how your attitude and values can make a difference to the organisation in question. Think about and articulate examples where you’ve gone the extra mile, delivered value, solved problems and made a contribution above and beyond that normally expected. You could give examples of working late, unsocial hours, contributing to society, helping people less fortunate than yourself or any other area that you can think of. This is about values and how your values match theirs. It’s important and worth spending time doing properly. 

Paragraph 6 – Wrap it up neatly. The impression that you’re trying to leave the reader is that they really do need to speak to you and not anyone else. Remember that the goal was to get interviewed and you should finish the letter with a call to action. Invite the reader to call or email, explaining your availability including is appropriate the availability to be interviewed remotely. Above all, finish the letter professionally and with the correct grammatical ending (yours sincerely, faithfully or something more generic). 

What should be avoided in a cover letter?

Negativity – Avoid anything negative, in particular, include nothing negative about previous employers or colleagues. 

Unanswered questions – If the content of the letter leaves the reader confused then that content should be left out. There is a big difference between a letter that leaves the reader wanting more, i.e., wanting to talk to the applicant than if there is confusion or doubt in the mind of the reader. 

Duplication – The space in a cover letter is small and must be used wisely. It’s fine to supplement information in the CV but don’t duplicate. Remember that the purpose is to get you interviewed. 

Irrelevancy – Don’t include anything that is either irrelevant or ancient history. Space is limited and you need to make things as interesting as possible without becoming semantic. 

Dishonesty – In the first place it’s wrong and secondly, illegal. Just be straight and upfront. 

What Message Are You Trying to Convey in your Cover Letter?

The message of your cover letter should be simple. You should be conveying the message that you are the person that is best suited to the job in question and they should be interviewing you and no-one else. 

Details of our cover letter writing service

Newcastle, Pontypridd, Neath, Barry, Aberdare, Caerphilly, Central, Cardiff, Swansea, Merthyr Tydfil


Author: Glenn Hughes

I’m a professional CV writer who also writes website content, LinkedIn profiles, helps people with bespoke job applications and more. I’ve been writing for the internet since 2009 and have many published articles.


  • Glenn Hughes

    I'm a professional CV writer who also writes website content, LinkedIn profiles, helps people with bespoke job applications and more. I've been writing for the internet since 2009 and have many published articles.

    View all posts

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