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Image / Editorial

Careers Clinic: 9 Steps To The Perfect Cover Letter

18th Sep 2016

Close-up of female hand writing in notebook

As the job market heats up, you may find yourself thinking about changing jobs. The next logical step is to turn your attention to updating your CV. (If you need some help with that check out How to Perfect your CV in 7 steps). At the last minute, the cover letter is a rushed couple of generic lines getting little time or attention. Big mistake. It is part of what makes you stand out and plays a significant role in securing the all-important interview.

The Basics

Getting the basics right seems almost too simple to mention but time and again ignored. Get your grammar, spelling and contact details correct. Proofread it yourself and ask a friend, colleague or family member to look over it. Lay it out formally with your address, phone number, and the date at the top followed by an introduction, two short explainer paragraphs and a signing off sentence.

Be Personal

Never lead with Dear Sir/Madam. Use the name of the person who advertised the job. If you don’t know who to address your cover letter to go to the company website or call to find out their name and title. This simple, yet hugely effective opening line immediately adds a personal touch and shows that you care enough to take the time to find out their name.

Tailor It

There is no such thing as a generic one size fits all cover letter. Tailor it to each specific role and company you apply to. Pick an article the website or some information that intrigues you about the company and mention why it professionally interests you.

Be Clear

State clearly where you heard about the role, e.g. ‘I am responding to the advert for the position of Advertising Assistant on your website.’ If you are applying speculatively, say that e.g. ‘I am sending you my application speculatively as I admire your recent work with IMAGE Publications. Should a role in PR open up, please keep me in mind?’ If a friend referred you to the company be clear, ?My friend, Mary Bell, works in communications in your Dublin office and suggested I send you my CV.’

Keep It Short

Your cover letter should never exceed one A4 page and contain more than 3 – 4 short paragraphs. It must be personal, engaging, clear and concise while building a sense of curiosity. For example, if applying for a role in fashion you might mention how the revival of power pieces for A/W 2016 intrigues you given your interest in the psychology of fashion. One sentence with just enough flavour to make you stand out from the crowd.

Give Information

Use one paragraph to add detail to your CV, fill in any blanks or draw attention to something you want to highlight. For example, if you have a time lapse on your CV because you were traveling, if you took time out to change career or paused your career to care for your children or a sick family member explain that now. If the gap is there, don’t be afraid of it instead clarify it. By doing this you leave no doubts or unanswered questions in your prospective employer’s mind.

How To End

End the cover letter with a single sentence thanking the person for taking the time to read your CV and Cover letter. Sign off using ?Yours sincerely.’

PDF For Email

When finished writing and editing save your document as one single PDF before sending it. On a practical level, this means that your recipient need open only one document but also ensures your formatted file is not distorted in the transfer between Mac and Android or vice versa.


If emailing your application state in the subject line the role you are applying for. Include direct links to your LinkedIn profile and other appropriate social/digital media accounts that show off your skills. Be friendly, professional and cordial, do not use all caps and refrain from using emoticons.

By Sinead Brady


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