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
Sample Letter #1
While currently searching for a challenging opportunity working as a (Name of Position), I have been researching for information about the strongest (Name of Industry) companies in the region. Your organization is by far the most fascinating and attractive group.
I am writing today, therefore, to express my excitement about the purpose and practice of (Name of Company) and my sincere interest to learn of employment opportunities for which I might apply. As the enclosed resume demonstrates, my experiences and abilities make me highly compatible with the culture and direction of your company, and so I would greatly appreciate being notified about any suitable opportunities.
If you have any questions, of if you would like to discuss further the talents I could offer, I would warmly welcome the opportunity to speak with you in person or over the phone. Please feel free to contact me at any time.
Sample Letter #2
I am interested in a position as a technical writer and editor for Doe Electronics. I hope my enclosed resume will be of interest to you.
I graduated from Doe University in 2005 with a major in English and a minor in Electrical Engineering, an admittedly unlikely combination. Still, it has served me well. I have been able to bridge the communications gap between technicians and the general public, not only in writing readable manuals, but also in writing successful advertising copy. I hope to hear from you after you have had a chance to review my resume.
Sample Letter #3
Although you may have a fully staffed sales force at Doe Pharmaceuticals, I believe that my background will interest you. After completing an undergraduate degree in chemistry at Springfield University, I worked in the lab at Springfield Hospital, having frequent contact with staff physicians. Later I worked for Johnson Pharmaceuticals in Research and Development, which gave me a solid background in drug interaction and chemical composition.
In addition, my position as President of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce has allowed me to use my leadership and sales abilities. Please take a careful look at my resume. I know I could be an asset to your company. Call me at 555-5555, if you would like to know more.
Sample Letter #4
I am interested in being considered for a position in sales and marketing management. Your recent partnership with Doe Corporation brings unlimited opportunities for the new millennium. I would like to help you capitalize on those opportunities by effectively leading a sales force to increase your revenues. As a seasoned sales professional with an extensive understanding of the communications and PC markets and a track record of success, I offer you the following:
- Ten years in telecommunications; four years in wireless
- Excellent sales and marketing skills
- Superior oral and written skills
- Refined interpersonal skills
- Public speaking and effective motivational skills for large audiences
- Sales management experience both in the field and at the corporate level
- Technical skills, including PC hardware and software, Internet, and e-mail
- Enthusiasm, loyalty, integrity, motivation, and good judgment
My future is filled with optimism and a sincere desire to prosper. I propose to share my wealth of knowledge and experience as your next sales manager as Doe prepares for explosive growth. I can relocate almost immediately.
Thank you for your time and consideration. I will contact you shortly to discuss this opportunity in greater depth.
Sample Letter #5
I am a senior electrical engineering student at Springfield University and will be graduating there in May. I am writing you now to inquire about possible summer employment opportunities at Doe Electronics.
I have successfully completed various courses in computer programming and computer applications. This training has provided me with the qualifications necessary to produce electronic controls for all cutting edge automotive applications. I am familiar with Motorola HC11 controllers as well as their application in embedded systems. In a few short weeks, my training will be completed and I will be ready to implement my skills and training in a challenging position in electrical engineering. I feel I could make a valuable contribution to the automotive applications department at Doe Electronics.
I understand that you will be representing Doe Electronics with a booth at Springfield University's career fair on March 19th. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you at that time to discuss my qualifications and answer any questions you might have. If you would like to contact me before then, please call me at (555) 555-5555.
I have enclosed my resume for your review.
Sample Letter #6
I am writing to inquire about employment opportunities with your company. I have been looking into several job opportunities in this field and am impressed with what your company has to offer. I possess a full range of capabilities that I could bring to your organization. My education and prior work experience have adequately prepared me for the demands of several positions in the administrative assistant field. I am a dedicated professional who is eager to take on new challenges and responsibilities, and I am confident that I have the qualifications necessary to make a valuable contribution to your organization.
I would appreciate it if you would contact me regarding any job openings you currently have or will have in the near future. I would be more than happy to submit a resume and/or meet with you in person. Please feel free to reach me either by phone (555-5555) or by e-mail (Jane@Doe.com). Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sample Letter #7
Having recently graduated from my studies, during which I acquired strong theoretical and practical abilities as a (Name of Position), I am currently seeking a challenging position in a local (Name of Industry) company where I could use my energy and talents to contribute to the company's quality and growth. Since (Name of Company) is highest on my list of exciting local endeavors, I am writing today to inquire about possible employment opportunities.
To demonstrate my unique skills and potentials, I have enclosed my resume for your review. If possible, I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to speak with you in person to express my sincere interest and to further detail the valuable skills and qualities I could offer to your company.
I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sample Letter #8
My purpose in writing is to apply for the marketing position that Doe Medical Supply posted on its web site. John Doe, in your sales department, also encouraged me to apply.
Your list of desired qualifications includes a background in foreign language to work with Doe's international clientele. I speak fluent Spanish and German, two of your prime markets. In addition, working at City Pharmaceutical over the last three years has given me valuable experience in the medical supply industry. I am ready to further develop my marketing skills at Doe Medical Supply.
I look forward to an opportunity to discuss this marketing position. I will contact your office next week to set up a convenient time for an interview. Thank you for your time and consideration.
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