Cover letters can feel like a difficult task but are as important as your CV when applying for a job. Think of them as the story of your CV – you will expand on the shorter points and bullet lists of your skills and show how your experience makes you the perfect fit for the role.
Cover letter basics
Tackle the basics first and you’re on your way to an excellent cover letter. Don’t panic about the blank page, it’ll soon be filled with all the skills and experience you have.
Write a fresh cover letter for each application
It can be tempting to copy paste your way through numerous job applications, but each letter should be unique. After all, each role is different, as is each company you apply to. It’s ok to have similar points and explanations for skills, but each letter should start as a blank page.
Don’t be afraid to use a template
You can find numerous templates online to help guide you and as long as you aren’t copying someone else’s work it’s ok to use one. Things like where to include the date, who you are sending the letter to and your contact details are all important, and a template will show you this. There’s a lot of variety out there, so make sure whichever you choose it is clear and easy to read – not one big block of text.
Keep it short and sweet
The ideal length of a cover letter is one side of an A4 page – around five paragraphs. Any longer and you risk rambling and if it’s only one or two paragraphs you won’t have covered enough of your skills and experience or explained why they should give you the job.
What to put in your cover letter
What exactly should a cover letter include? Read some examples of employability skills to see some examples.
Go beyond your CV
Your cover letter should certainly include the most relevant parts of your CV to show why you are best for the job, but you can also reference other things. If you have volunteered, have an interesting hobby or skill, or a story that applies to the job role, you can include it. Any official training should, of course, be on your CV, but some things that have developed you as a person or show you can tackle certain situations might make you stand out.
Showcase what you can bring to the company
What makes you uniquely perfect for this company? Do you support its mission statement in a hobby you have? Can you use your leadership skills to push a project they have forward? Have you done specific research into machinery they use? Anything you think can help them, include in your letter.
Sometimes using other’s words can be the most helpful. A testimonial about your skills or abilities from a teacher, trainer or professional who knows you well are a great way of giving kudos to your talents. You can include this as a short quote within the letter, or, if it is a longer testimonial, as an extra page to your cover letter. Make sure you highlight that it is included so it isn’t missed out.
Using the right tone of voice
When we read, we use a tone. A tone of voice in a cover letter should be convincing, friendly, approachable and confident. Here’s how to achieve this.
Try not to be overly formal
It can be tempting to be extremely formal in a letter but try to remember the person reading it is a human being! It should tell an interesting story about your career and convince them to hire you, not baffle them with complicated wording or formal sentences.
Write in the company’s ‘voice’
Your letter should be in your language and should, ultimately, sound like you. However, every company has a tone of voice (TOV) and certain words or phrases will regularly be used to reflect its brand values. If you can naturally fit these into your letter, do. Find common vocabulary or wording they use on their website or social channels and use it in your cover letter. Read it back – if it sounds forced, edit it out or adapt it.
Try writing the letter from your best friend’s point-of-view
If you find it difficult to sell yourself or your talents, imagine your best friend is writing about you. They would likely tell the company you should get the job based on your abilities and explain what a good job you made of particular situations. They see you in a good light, so it will make your tone positive.
Your final words . . . finishing your letter
This is the final paragraph and your last chance to impress, so it’s important to get it right.
Don’t trail off, finish with a final point about a skill or why you are most excited to get the job. What about this company excites you the most? Tell them this! End by thanking them for taking the time to read your letter and use ‘sincerely’ or ‘regards’ to sign off your letter. Read your final paragraph a few times aloud to see how it sounds – it should feel like a natural end to your letter.
Write a first draft in one sitting if you can. Then go back and make ‘rounds’ of edits. You can do this with time in between to give you time to process what you want to change or develop. Taking breaks from the letter and coming back to it will show you where things need to be edited. You should also use programs like Grammarly or Hemmingway Editor to check for grammar and spelling errors. Hemmingway will also show you where your sentences could be shorter or clearer.
Get your letter checked
Have more than one person check your cover letter if possible. Someone who works in a similar industry would be ideal, but a friend or relative who will give you honest feedback is also helpful. Read it out loud, too, because this will help you to hear clunky or awkward sentences or highlight missing words and spelling errors.
More tips and advice
Need to write a CV? Our construction CV guide provides you with everything you need to know.
Landed yourself a job interview? Head over to our guide to job interviews.