You should look at your cover letter as an extension of your CV. This is your chance to expand on key points and go into more detail as to why you think you will be the perfect candidate for the job. The style and tone of cover letters will vary depending on certain factors:

-Industry: Depending on what industry you’re targeting will depend on the tone and structure of your cover letter. If you’re applying for creative roles such as advertising then you’ll probably want to use your imagination on how you can stand out and showcase your creativity, maybe even turning your letter into an advertisement! However if you’re applying for less creative roles such as law, accountancy and engineering then it’s best to keep things formal.

-Unemployment: If you’re unemployed then this is a good opportunity to expand on those gaps on your CV. Don’t try and hide the fact that you’ve been unemployed, explain your reasoning’s as to why you’re out of work and then go on to explain why you are ready to return to employment. Write about what they should expect to see from you once you’re back in work.

-Graduate/First Job: If you’ve just graduated you’re probably not the only former student applying for this position, so your cover letter is your chance to stand out amongst the crowd. Highlight any internships, voluntary projects or extra-curricular activities you may have attended. Tell them what you plan to achieve at the company and how you’re going to add value.

-Career progression: If it’s an internal role you’re applying for then emphasise how you have already added value to the company and reiterate how long you have been with them. You have an upper hand as you’re already apart of the company so you could talk about how you’ve already added value during your time there.

Your cover letter is not something that should be rushed. Spend that time to tailor it towards the specific role you’re applying for. Show it people and get their feedback and only submit it once you’re 100% happy with it. If you’re proud of it there’s more chance that the employer will be impressed with it too. Your cover letter should typically be around one page long and split into three sectors:

Your introduction should be a few sentences long and should be a summary of the key points as to why you are perfect for the role. Take into consideration the competition you may be up against. Think about how you can stand out in that first sentence.

For example if you start your cover letter with “Dear Sir/Madam I am applying for the position of Site Manager as advertised on…” it’s not grabbing the employers’ attention. Try starting out with a key point. For instance some of the vital skills in construction are problem solving, team work, and time management. So tell them in your first sentence how you can deliver these:

“I have over 10 years’ experience in delivering projects on time and meeting multi-million pound budgets.”

“Bringing expert problem solving skills to your company and my proven ability to manage large teams of 100+ is where I will add value.”

Above are a couple of examples on how you can grab the reader’s attention and make a lasting impression with your opening line.

Main section
This is the bulk of your cover letter, a few paragraphs long should be sufficient. This is where your homework can really pay off. Research the company and the vacant role and understand what it is they are looking for. If you understand that you’ll be able to tailor this section in such a way you’ll come across as someone who ticks all the boxes.
Back your statements up with statistics if you can; what revenue did you add at your last role? What scale projects have you worked on? What are you going to do for their business and why should they employ you?
Don’t waste your time with unrelated achievements and job experience, this can come across as desperate and it’s easy to spot. Only relevant content should be included. Think outside the box, what does the employer want from you?

This should be a paragraph where you summarise on the above. You should be informing the reader that you have a lot more detailed information on your CV they will benefit from reading. Let them know your notice period if any, your availability for interviews and when/how is best to be contacted.

It is recommended to follow up applications with a phone call after submitting to see if any decisions have been made. Doing so shows enthusiasm and a genuine interest in the position you’ve applied for which is likely to bump you up the pile. However, one call is enough, and you should definitely ask how and when to follow up before calling again – if they tell you that they’ll contact you when a decision is made then just wait patiently for their call, the last thing you want to do is annoy your potential future employer. If you weren’t successful you might want to ask for some feedback so you can improve your next application. If you landed yourself an interview, great! You might want to check out our Interview Tips.