When looking for work, almost everyone knows what a curriculum vitae is and how to write one, but few are aware of the importance of including a cover letter with the CV. It is a very important document if you wish to submit a job application in an English-speaking country, as it is used to introduce yourself to the company, and you can include more information than that in the curriculum vitae, thus increasing your chances of getting hired.
In one of the episodes of the SayWhat?! series on our YouTube channel, Professor Brandon briefly explained how to write a cover letter. This article will delve deeper into the subject by enumerating the basic steps to be followed in writing your cover letter:
- Address the person who will receive it
If you know the name of the person in charge (usually the company’s Head of Human Resources), start off with a header addressing that person:
-If you know the name of the person: “Dear Mr Smith” (if he is a man), “Dear Ms Smith” (if she is a woman and you do not know her marital status)
-If you do not know the name: “Dear Sir/Madam” or “Dear” + the job position to which it is addressed, for example: “Dear Hiring Manager”.
- Specify which position you are applying for
It is possible that the company has several job vacancies, so you should specify at the beginning of your letter which position you are applying for.
I am writing to you with regards to the position within your company for…
I am writing in connection with the job advertisement for…
I would like to be considered for the position of…
Please find enclosed my CV in application for the post advertised in…
- Be brief and concise
Including a longer cover letter does not necessarily mean that you will have a better chance of being considered; on the contrary, it is more likely that the person reading the letter will get bored before they even finish reading it, which means that it will get tossed in the reject pile. A cover letter should not exceed one page, including the header, closing and signature.
- Highlight your skills
The job offer may have listed knowledge of a program that you are not very familiar with as a requirement, but it is also possible that this requirement is not quite important, so you should highlight the qualities that you believe make you the ideal candidate for the job:
With more than 10 years’ experience in the food industry and 5 years’ experience in management, I am confident I can provide excellent guidance to your clients.
After carefully reading about the position on your website, I am confident I am fully qualified for the position and would appreciate a job interview.
I believe that my passion for teaching and my strong commitment to children’s education make me an ideal candidate for your school.
- But don’t go overboard
Don’t lay on the self-praise too thick, however, as you might come across as conceited or—worse still—they might think that you’re “padding” your curriculum vitae with false information.
- Mind your grammar
This is always very important—poor grammar leaves a very bad impression. When in doubt, put your word processor’s spell checker to good use or ask someone you know who has a very good command of English to help you out. Another thing that you shouldn’t overlook: it is always more formal to use the uncontracted forms of verbs, that is, “I am” and “I have” instead of “I’m” and “I’ve”.
- Separate the different blocks of text
Each part of the letter (greeting, introduction, closing, etc.,) should go in a separate paragraph to make the content easier to read.
- Make it clear that you await a response
Remember to close the letter indicating that you look forward to hearing from them—whether the response is negative or positive. The most commonly used phrase is:
I am looking/I look forward to hearing from you.
- Close your letter
Remember that a comma is placed after the letter closing in English, before your signature.
Yours faithfully, (if you do not know the name of the addressee)
Yours sincerely, (if you already know the name of the addressee)
With kindest regards,
Lastly, to show how all these tips have been put into practice, here’s an example of a brief cover letter: Amanda addresses the principal of an international school who is looking for a French teacher.
Dear Mr Taylor,
I am writing regarding the position as a French teacher at your school, advertised in The Sunday Post on 10 April. I have a degree in French Studies and I worked in Paris as an English teacher for 5 years before moving back to Edinburgh 3 months ago. I have always been passionate about French language and culture and I have always enjoyed transmitting my enthusiasm to my students. For this reason, I think I am a perfect candidate for this position, and I would be very glad to be part of your team.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this application.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
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