What is a Cover Letter: Definitions and Examples

During your job application process, there are several documents that might help you win the position you’re applying for.

While the most important document is your curriculum vitae (CV), some employers may also look for a cover letter. A cover letter is a personalised document that goes alongside your CV to provide additional information as well as a more persuasive argument for hiring you as an employee.

Below we explore what a cover letter is, the official definition of a cover letter and provide an example you can use the next time you apply for a job.

What is a Cover Letter?

A cover letter is a professional document that you submit to an employer alongside your CV. The cover letter acts as an introduction to you as a person and provides an overview of why you feel you’d be suitable for the role you’re applying for.

This provides the employer with more detail around your skills, qualifications and working style that you may not have been able to include within your CV. Although a cover letter is a formal letter and should maintain a professional tone, it’s another opportunity to demonstrate your own personality to a potential employer.

Your cover letter should largely be tailored to the role you’re applying for and while it’s typically associated with job applications, it can also be used when applying for an internship, voluntary position or even when enquiring about vacancies.

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Should You Always Provide a Cover Letter?

While not all employers require an applicant to send a cover letter within their application, it’s a good habit to send a cover letter alongside your CV and any application-related tasks you’re given. Although it’s often not a mandatory document, it’s a great way of highlighting your strengths to an employer and demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to personalise your application.

Similarly, employers generally have to screen a huge amount of job applications on a regular basis. By having a cover letter and a tailored CV, you’re giving them plenty of opportunities to get a sense of who you are and demonstrate that you’re truly interested in the role. This makes their lives easier and also creates a good first impression, which may help you progress further along the application process.

What Should You Include Within Your Cover Letter?

Since a cover letter is a tailored document for each individual position you apply for, it’s difficult to provide a template. That said, there are some fundamental aspects that you should always look to cover. These include:

Your suitability for the role

By including a section in your cover letter about your suitability and potential for a role, you’re able to highlight to employers that you’ve read and understood the job description.

Within this, you’re also able to demonstrate that you understand the value you can offer to the business and the potential impact that you might have. Always look to read the job description before you create your cover letter as this provides valuable insight on keywords you can use and attributes you should be highlighting.

Your personality and work ethic

Since a cover letter is more loosely formatted than a CV, there’s more opportunity for you to demonstrate your unique personality, your working style and the value that may provide for a company.

Since employers are always eager to find a candidate that suits their business culture, you can demonstrate your suitability within your cover letter. Look to express your passion for the role or the industry, any research you’ve performed around the company and provide a creative touch, while still maintaining a degree of professionalism.

A call-to-action

Remember that as you write your cover letter, your main goal is to encourage the employer to read your CV and earn an interview. You may finish your cover letter with a call-to-action that states your availability for a potential interview, how soon you’re available to start work and provide the reader with the opportunity to ask any questions.

Also take the time to reinforce your interest in the position and offer the employer the chance to ask you any questions if you feel that you’re comfortable answering them. By including this small but important detail, you’re able to show that you’re assertive and open to communicating with the employer.

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Tips For Writing a Cover Letter

Below are several tips that you can follow that will improve the quality and potential of your cover letter:

Keep the letter concise and engaging

While it’s tempting to write as much down as you can about your potential, your past achievements and what you can provide for the business, remember that an employer has to read it.

The goal of a cover letter is to persuade an employer to either read your CV or offer you an interview. This means you want to create an engaging and informative cover letter that can still be quickly screened by a recruiter or employer.

Maintain your professionalism

Many individuals struggle to create a cover letter that is both engaging and demonstrates their personality while still remaining professional.

Remember that a cover letter is a professional document and while you want to provide an insight into you as a person, this is still a potential first impression an employer may have of you. Utilise a formal tone and don’t use any slang or jargon. If you mention an employee that works at the company as a contact or reference, use their full name and position.

Quantify your success

If you provide examples of past achievements within your cover letter, it’s vital to quantify these with statistics and context. Take the time to demonstrate any value that your work had, such as an increase in revenue, leads or productivity.

This approach demonstrates a tangible impact for readers and highlights to them that you understand the impact that your work had on the business.

Cover Letter Template

While it’s difficult to write a cover letter template due to the personalised nature of the document, below is a basic outline that you can follow when creating your own cover letter:

Dear [Contact Name / Sir / Madam]

I’m writing to you to highlight my interest in working as a at [company name]. During my role as a [current job title], I feel that I’ve built a range of skills that would help me excel in . As a [adjective], [adjective] worker, I feel I’d be a great fit for your company and could provide plenty of value to your business.

In the [years of experience] that I’ve worked at [current company], I’ve built a range of skills such as [skill] and [skill] that have helped me achieve a number of key goals. One of these major achievements was when I [details of major achievement], which led to [evidence of success].

While I enjoy my current role, I’m extremely excited at the prospect of working for [company name], as I appreciate the work that you’re doing and the success that you’ve had in [example of company success]. I feel that my natural abilities in [skill] and [skill] would help you achieve your wider company goals while also providing a new perspective and new opportunities for your business.

I’ve also attached my CV alongside this cover letter where you can learn more about my educational background, work experience and skills. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and look forward to hearing back from you. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with me via the contact details on my CV.

Yours sincerely,

[Full name]