The first thing a potential employer sees in your job application is the cover letter. This doesn't just support your CV – it's an opportunity for you to stand out from the crowd and persuade the recruiter to put you through to the next round.
Be wary of spending hours on perfecting your CV at the expense of your cover letter. If you need some inspiration on what to include and what format to use, here are our helpful guides – just remember not to copy them as exact templates.
1. Standard, conservative style
This is ideal for sectors such as business, law, accountancy and retail. For more creative sectors, a letter like this might be less appealing, and could work against you.
Dear Mr Black,
Please find enclosed my CV in application for the post advertised in the Guardian on 30 November.
The nature of my degree course has prepared me for this position. It involved a great deal of independent research, requiring initiative, self-motivation and a wide range of skills. For one course, [insert course], an understanding of the [insert sector] industry was essential. I found this subject very stimulating.
I am a fast and accurate writer, with a keen eye for detail and I should be very grateful for the opportunity to progress to market reporting. I am able to take on the responsibility of this position immediately, and have the enthusiasm and determination to ensure that I make a success of it.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this application and I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.
2. Standard speculative letter
This may vary according to the nature of the organisation and the industry you're applying to.
Dear Mr Brown,
I am writing to enquire if you have any vacancies in your company. I enclose my CV for your information.
As you can see, I have had extensive vacation work experience in office environments, the retail sector and service industries, giving me varied skills and the ability to work with many different types of people. I believe I could fit easily into your team.
I am a conscientious person who works hard and pays attention to detail. I'm flexible, quick to pick up new skills and eager to learn from others. I also have lots of ideas and enthusiasm. I'm keen to work for a company with a great reputation and high profile like [insert company name].
I have excellent references and would be delighted to discuss any possible vacancy with you at your convenience. In case you do not have any suitable openings at the moment, I would be grateful if you would keep my CV on file for any future possibilities.
3. Letter for creative jobs
We've used the example of a copywriter but you can adapt it for your profession. The aim of a creative letter is to be original and show you have imagination, but understand what the job entails. Balance is essential: don't be too wacky, or it will turn off the reader.
Dear Ms Green,
· Confused by commas?
· Puzzled by parenthesis?
· Stumped by spelling?
· Perturbed by punctuation?
· Annoyed at the apostrophe? (And alliteration?)
Well, you're not alone. It seems that fewer and fewer people can write. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who can read. So they'll spot a gaffe from a mile off. And that means it's a false economy, unless you're 100% sure of yourself, to write your own materials. (Or to let clients do it for themselves.)
To have materials properly copywritten is, when one considers the whole process of publishing materials and the impact that the client wishes to make, a minor expense. Sloppiness loses clients, loses customers.
There is an answer. Me. Firm quotes are free. You can see some of what I do on my multilingual website at [insert web address]. If you'd like, I can get some samples out to you within 24 hours. And, if you use me, you'll have some sort of guarantee that you can sleep soundly as those tens of thousands of copies are rolling off the presses.
Luck shouldn't come into it!
With kindest regards
Other helpful resources
•How to write a perfect CV and cover letter
•Applying for jobs without experience? How to build and sell your skills
•Five steps to the perfect graduate CV
•School-leavers and graduates: how to write your first CV
•How to write a personal statement for your CV
•CV templates to fit every stage of your career
Looking for a job? Browse Guardian Jobs or sign up to Guardian Careers for the latest job vacancies and career advice
Cover Letter Sample for a Resume
Do you need to write a cover letter for a job? You may feel as though the document is unnecessary since you already provide a resume with plenty of information. Not so! A cover letter serves an important purpose: it presents your case for why you should be hired. Your cover letter is where you can show your passion for the position or company, and highlight relevant qualifications.
Many employers require cover letters as part of the job application process.
However, even when an employer does not explicitly ask for a cover letter, you should send one. A strong cover letter can make your application stand out.
Read below for an example of a cover letter to send with a resume, plus tips for writing and sending a cover letter. Use the sample as a guide when you write your cover letter, remembering to tailor all the information to your own experiences and the specific position and company. Here are some cover letter tips.
Do Send a Cover Letter
Even when an employer does not directly ask for one, be sure to always to send a cover letter. The only time you do not want to send a letter is when a job listing explicitly says not to send one. In that situation, it's more important to follow the directions on the job listing.
Customize Each Letter
It might seem tedious, be it is important to customize each letter to fit the specific job you for which you are applying.
It will make your letter stand out.
Highlight Relevant Qualifications
In your cover letter, address one or two skills or qualifications you have that match the job description. Provide a specific example of a time you demonstrated each of these qualifications.
You can use your cover letter to go into detail about something in your resume that needs explaining.
For example, a cover letter is a great place to talk about a career shift or to explain an extended gap in employment.
Read Samples and Templates
For help writing your cover letter, read samples like the one below, as well as cover letter templates. Remember to tailor any example or template to fit your own experiences and the job for which you are applying.
Edit, Edit, Edit
Be sure to thoroughly proofread each cover letter before sending it, looking for grammar and spelling errors. Consider asking a friend or family member, or even a career counselor, to read over your cover letter.
Sample Cover Letter for a Resume
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name:
I am interested in the author's assistant position at ABC Company, as advertised in XXX. I am currently employed as legislative director for Assemblywoman XXXX, Chairperson of the NYS Assembly. I believe that the skills and experiences I have gained at this position make me an ideal candidate for the job of author’s assistant.
As legislative director, I have developed strong writing and editing skills. For example, one of my main duties is to prepare Assemblywoman XXXX’s personal legislation, which deals with issues related to her position as Senior Member of the NYS Assembly Standing Committee.
This duty requires meticulous writing and editing skills, and an ability to convey complex legal ideas clearly. I have prepared dozens of pieces of legislation and received praise for the clarity of my writing.
I have also gained extensive experience in legal and policy research – fields that you state the author’s assistant must be familiar with. My experience in the NYS Assembly has afforded me the opportunity to become familiar with the consolidated and unconsolidated laws of the State of New York. In particular, through my work with Assemblywoman XXXX, I have become heavily involved in the current welfare and Medicaid reform movement. I am always eager to learn more about state legislation, reading up on these topics on my own time to become more knowledgeable. I would love to bring this passion for policy and law to your company.
I am confident that my experience in the Legislature and my research and writing skills qualify me for consideration. If you would like, I can provide you with current samples of my work. I have also enclosed my resume. I look forward to meeting with you and discussing my qualifications in more detail.
Signature (hard copy letter)
Sending an Email Cover Letter
If you're sending your cover letter via email, list your name and the job title in the subject line of the email message. Include your contact information in your email signature, but don't list the employer's contact information. Skip the date, and start your email message with the salutation.