How to Write a Great Cover Letter

Kathryn Handley
April 2, 2021

Structure and Formatting

Your contact information should be in the top right hand corner. Usually you should include your current address, email and phone number.

Their address and contact information will appear directly above the first line (“Dear...”).

Don’t forget to use the right sign-off - it is “Yours Sincerely” if you know their name and “Yours Faithfully” if you don’t!

The cover letter should be no longer than one page and set out in clear short paragraphs. 

You can use our Cover Letter Template to make sure that you have the correct format! Just select “Make a Copy” in Google docs or “Download” as a Word document to use this template for your applications. 

Content

Check the job posting for any specific requirements for the cover letter, e.g. a breakdown of grades or explanation of a particular skill. 

If there are no specific requirements, then a the general rule is to explain: 

  1. Why you want to work at that organisation. 
  2. Why your skills meet the requirements. 
  3. Why they should choose you over any other candidate. 

When writing this, you should pay attention to the primary responsibilities, as well as the desired skills and experience for candidates. Keep the posting handy so you can refer back to it while you write.  Often, employers scan CVs and cover letters for keywords related to the job. Make sure you incorporate any skills or experience that you have that are listed in the description.

Key Tips

Customise your Cover Letter 

You should never use the same generic letter for all of your applications. Employers will be able to tell you didn’t take time to create a unique letter for them. To show the employer that you have tailored your letter, open by sharing why you’re interested in the role and the organisation.  

Supplement your CV, Don’t repeat it

Rather than listing your experience, which you should have already done in your CV, you should use the cover letter to highlight unique reasons why you’re a good fit for the job. 

Cover letters provide an opportunity to talk about desirable soft skills like communication and project management. Anecdotes from your time during a particular job or experience are a great way to demonstrate these skills. 

For example, if you want to highlight your leadership skills, you can detail the time you led a major group project that received rave reviews from your professor. Or perhaps your manager at your part-time job regularly compliments your talent for turning angry customers into happy ones, demonstrating your people skills. 

Address any missing pieces

If you have any special circumstances - for example reasons why your grades were slightly lower or why you have a gap in your education or work experience, it's good idea to include this in the cover letter if you feel comfortable doing so. You can turn these circumstances into a positive statement about your abilities as a candidate: as evidence of resilience, determination and ability to work under pressure. 

If you don’t meet all of the qualifications listed in the posting, mention this in your letter. Be forthright and use this opportunity to explain to the hiring manager why you’re still a good fit for the job.

Proofread and ask for feedback

Carefully read through your cover letter when it’s ready and check for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Have a friend or family member review it as well and give their feedback. 

Don’t forget to contact your school’s career centre and schedule an appointment to go over your cover letter, resume, and other application questions you may have.

Get started on your cover letter by downloading our free template.

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How to Write a Great Cover Letter

Kathryn Handley

February 16, 2021

Structure and Formatting

Your contact information should be in the top right hand corner. Usually you should include your current address, email and phone number.

Their address and contact information will appear directly above the first line (“Dear...”).

Don’t forget to use the right sign-off - it is “Yours Sincerely” if you know their name and “Yours Faithfully” if you don’t!

The cover letter should be no longer than one page and set out in clear short paragraphs. 

You can use our Cover Letter Template to make sure that you have the correct format! Just select “Make a Copy” in Google docs or “Download” as a Word document to use this template for your applications. 

Content

Check the job posting for any specific requirements for the cover letter, e.g. a breakdown of grades or explanation of a particular skill. 

If there are no specific requirements, then a the general rule is to explain: 

  1. Why you want to work at that organisation. 
  2. Why your skills meet the requirements. 
  3. Why they should choose you over any other candidate. 

When writing this, you should pay attention to the primary responsibilities, as well as the desired skills and experience for candidates. Keep the posting handy so you can refer back to it while you write.  Often, employers scan CVs and cover letters for keywords related to the job. Make sure you incorporate any skills or experience that you have that are listed in the description.

Key Tips

Customise your Cover Letter 

You should never use the same generic letter for all of your applications. Employers will be able to tell you didn’t take time to create a unique letter for them. To show the employer that you have tailored your letter, open by sharing why you’re interested in the role and the organisation.  

Supplement your CV, Don’t repeat it

Rather than listing your experience, which you should have already done in your CV, you should use the cover letter to highlight unique reasons why you’re a good fit for the job. 

Cover letters provide an opportunity to talk about desirable soft skills like communication and project management. Anecdotes from your time during a particular job or experience are a great way to demonstrate these skills. 

For example, if you want to highlight your leadership skills, you can detail the time you led a major group project that received rave reviews from your professor. Or perhaps your manager at your part-time job regularly compliments your talent for turning angry customers into happy ones, demonstrating your people skills. 

Address any missing pieces

If you have any special circumstances - for example reasons why your grades were slightly lower or why you have a gap in your education or work experience, it's good idea to include this in the cover letter if you feel comfortable doing so. You can turn these circumstances into a positive statement about your abilities as a candidate: as evidence of resilience, determination and ability to work under pressure. 

If you don’t meet all of the qualifications listed in the posting, mention this in your letter. Be forthright and use this opportunity to explain to the hiring manager why you’re still a good fit for the job.

Proofread and ask for feedback

Carefully read through your cover letter when it’s ready and check for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes. Have a friend or family member review it as well and give their feedback. 

Don’t forget to contact your school’s career centre and schedule an appointment to go over your cover letter, resume, and other application questions you may have.

Get started on your cover letter by downloading our free template.

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